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Loving the Process

Bill Franz and 101-year-old father-in-law Wally Willaman connect by creating art together.

Article by Nina Weierman

Photography by Bill Franz & Provided

Originally published in Centerville Lifestyle

After hearing a story on the radio about a woman who used an activity to connect with an aging family member, Bill Franz, a retired engineer and business consultant turned photographer decided to take that idea and run with it. Bill’s recent visits with his 101-year-old father-in-law Wally Willaman, a memory care resident at Bethany Village had become more difficult. He thought a project that they could both work on in the present would help bring them together. 

The result was a beautiful and unique artistic collaboration that produced an art series aptly named "Jobs from A to Z” that features 26 digital collages portraying a worker for each letter of the alphabet beginning with Accordionist for A and finishing with Zookeeper for Z. 

“Each of the 26 pieces starts with my photo of a worker. Next, I blend in five to ten other photos to make a rough draft of a digital collage. Then I review the rough draft with Wally before adjusting colors and adding my own marks to make the finished piece,” shares Bill. 

Bill and Wally had fun with the project. Over a period of six months, the two spent time discussing colors and whether or not the letter F should be Farmer, Fire Eater or Florist and so on. 

“Sometimes I’d prepare two different rough drafts and we’d put a box of donuts on a table in the hall. As the nursing home residents and staff came by we’d ask them to vote on which rough draft was best. We had fun every time we got together,” reminisces Bill.

For those who might also be trying to build a better bond with their loved one in memory care, Bill says that any kind of project will do. “It doesn’t have to be an art project. But it has to be something that you can take your time on. You don't want to hurry. You want to enjoy the process.” 

With the completion of “Jobs from A to Z” Bill and Wally have moved on to a new endeavor for their visits. This new art project is called "Book of Imaginary Relatives." Bill takes an old black & white portrait of someone, adds color to the photo, and then asks Wally and his friends to imagine a name and a history for the person in the photo. Bill then shares the photo and imagined history on Facebook once a week and invites viewers to add to the imagined history. You can find the posts at

Showcased at the Dayton Metro Library in the fall of 2023 and set to travel to Ann Arbor in the spring of 2024 as part of Michigan Medicine’s Gift of Art exhibition program, the A to Z art series continues to captivate audiences. Bill and Wally’s story is a testament to the transformative power of art in fostering connections and transcending age and memory. To see the full A to Z art series in digital format or to learn more about Bill Franz’s photography visit