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Mother seeks help locating late son’s artwork before Dowling closes

June Capossela Kempf, at her St. James home

June Capossela Kempf, at her St. James home on Thursday, June 2, 2016, displays a photograph showing a cartoon created by her late son while he was an art student at Dowling College. Jonathan Kempf, who had muscular dystrophy, died in 1996 before completing his studies, and she and her husband donated the artwork to Dowling. With the school's announcement that it is closing, she is seeking help in regaining the original piece of art. Credit: Ed Betz

June Capossela Kempf of St. James donated a political cartoon to Dowling College that her late son drew when he was a student there in the mid-1990s.

With word of the school’s impending closure, she is trying to get back the artwork made by her son, Jonathan Kempf. She has reached out to the administration and his former teachers in an effort to find it.

“Now with this crisis, I want someone to get a hold of it and save it, so it doesn’t wind up in a Dumpster,” she said Thursday.

Jonathan Kempf, who had muscular dystrophy, attended the Oakdale school from 1993 to 1996. An art major, he went to classes with his service dog, Barney, and had a very good experience at Dowling, the mother said. He died at age 21 in 1996, when he was a junior.

He used colored pencils to draw the cartoon, and Capossela Kempf and her husband, Ron Kempf, donated the framed picture to the special education department within Dowling’s School of Education. It pictured former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich seated at a desk, trying to write a speech, with a shoe in his mouth.

Capossela Kempf is not sure if the picture ever was displayed. At the time, she said, she was told it might be too political.

This week, when she learned of Dowling officials’ announcement that the school is closing, she tried to find out what had happened to her son’s work.

She said she sent emails to his former teachers and spoke with someone from administration. Dowling President Albert Inserra, contacted Thursday by Newsday, sent a referral to a staff member for Capossela Kempf to contact for help.

Capossela Kempf said she realizes that with the impending closure, Dowling employees may be preoccupied with more pressing developments.

College officials initially announced Tuesday afternoon they were shutting down the school, which has campuses in Oakdale and Shirley, on Friday. Then, on Thursday, a notice posted on the school’s website said the campus is expected to close Wednesday, June 8.

“I remembered the picture and I wouldn’t want to see it thrown away,” she said. “I know it is possibly an impossible quest, but I wanted to do my best to make sure it was secured.”

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