James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont servicemen Charles Pittinger and Woodrow Carbaugh were remembered last month when the Moser Road bridge was dedicated in their honor. However, their families will soon receive another remembrance. Kellen “Buck” Musser will paint portraits of the two young men for their families.
Musser, 83, has been painting for 20 years. He often paints in watercolor or acrylics, using a palette knife.
“I use every edge of that knife when I paint,” he said.
His paintings are vivid and often look a lot like a photograph. He once spent two-and-a-half hours getting a shoe right in one painting.
Musser is also a 26-year Veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force, serving in Vietnam. He often paints portraits of fallen Veterans for their families and Veterans’ groups. For the many hours of loving work he puts into the portraits, he receives nothing more than a “thank you.”
“This comes from the heart,” he said.
Musser not only paints the portrait, he also has it framed for the family. Over the years, he has painted more than 100 of these portraits.
He remembers the first one he did of David Smith, a Frederick Marine reservist killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Musser spent about 50 hours on the painting. When it was complete, he called Smith’s mother and asked her to meet him.
“I told her I had something very valuable to her that she would want,” Musser said.
They met in a Denny’s parking lot, and Musser took the painting out of his truck to give her.
“Her smile when she saw it… she had tears running down her face looking at it. That made it worth it for me,” Musser said.
Musser grew up in Brunswick. He dropped out of high school and joined the Army. When he retired from the military the first time, he came to Frederick to work as a maintenance employee for the city. After two years, he realized he didn’t enjoy civilian life and rejoined the military.
“In all those places, all those people I met, I never told anyone I was an artist,” Musser said.
He always knew he had an attraction to making art, but he never indulged himself and took classes to refine his skills. That is, until he saw a painting of a vase of flowers with water drops on it. Those water drops intrigued him, and he decided he wanted to learn how to paint.
“It was a gift I was born with, but I had never used it,” Musser said.
He took a class with Diane Simmons at A. C. Moore. Then, he continued taking classes with her, learning all he could, trying different subjects, and challenging himself. He then found a way to combine his love of art and the military.
He does his paintings at his small kitchen table, working from pictures of the servicemen provided by their families.
“I don’t eat at the kitchen table anymore,” Musser said. “It has my work on it.”
His home is filled with his paintings—hung on the walls, in sketchbooks, in stacks around the living room. He also has a book filled with the letters he has received from the families to whom he has given his paintings.
His work has also allowed him to meet some notable Veterans, such as Frank Buckles, the last surviving Veteran of WWI who died in 2011, and Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient.
Buck Musser holds a painting he made for “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor winner. You can see on the wall a self-portrait he did of himself after he joined the Army.
Photo by James Rada, Jr.