“Love all, serve all” was Anup Bhandari’s motto.
It defined his attitude and his actions. The Kilgore artist was known as much for the paintings he created as the charity those artworks allowed him to pursue.
Bhandari died the night of Tuesday, March 10, following months of hospital care and, finally, placement in hospice care. Last year, Bhandari suffered a cardiac arrest which left him with an anoxic brain injury.
Today, Bhandari’s life is celebrated as his friends gather at the Texan Theater to remember, to grieve and to share their thoughts about the man who touched so many of their lives.
“That’s what he lived by,” said Allstate agent and Bhandari’s friend Melissa Azzam, of the artist’s motto.
“That’s what he was known for, for sure.”
Azzam was just one of the artist’s many friends and they all knew him as one of the brightest examples of humanity in the City of Stars, she said.
“They would say they’ve never met a better person and that’s the actual truth. I’ve never met anybody that has said anything less than that.”
Azzam said friends of Bhandari will gather at 11 a.m. today at the Texan Theater to celebrate his life and anyone will be welcomed. She noted guests are encouraged to wear bright colors instead of the usual grays and blacks seen at memorial services.
The bright garb will reflect the artist’s expressive use of color in his paintings but it also hearkens back to the culture of his homeland, Nepal, where colors like red and black are not seen at services honoring the deceased.
Bhandari moved from Nepal to Kilgore in 2000 at only 19 years old. He traveled halfway around the world to pursue his two greatest passions: fine arts and culinary arts. He enrolled at Kilgore College, eventually earning two associate’s degrees from the college, one each in art and culinary arts. Later, he would also earn a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Bhandari’s life changed when he befriended a homeless man and pledged himself to helping and supporting those who lived at and used the services of Newgate Mission in Longview, an organization serving homeless, low-income and marginalized populations in the area.
He would go on to befriend many in the Newgate community, teaching them art lessons and even painting their portraits for a book called “Faces of Newgate”.
“Most of the work he did, he gave the proceeds to Newgate and the homeless,” Azzam said.
“He didn’t keep the proceeds from ‘Faces of Newgate’. He donated time and paintings. He never wanted anything for himself, just for everybody else.”
Bhandari’s charity did not stop with his artworks. A passionate chef, he would often devote hours to creating intricately plated meals, only to give them away to friends instead of eating them himself.
Azzam recalled a time when Bhandari sent her a picture of a beautifully plated meal he had prepared, only to later give it to her.
She also recalled his close friendship with Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, who presented Bhandari with the key to the city in 2013.
“Anup was such a compassionate person,” Spradlin said, remembering how Bhandari could always be counted on to donate to charitable causes in the city, whether for Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club or another group.
“I would call other people for donations and I never had to call him. He would call me and say ‘I need to give you a piece of art to auction off for the charity.’ He would call me every year to say ‘I need to donate a painting for you.’ He was the only person to call me begging to make a donation! It was important to him to help anywhere he could help.”
The artist was well-known for his charity and his hard work to support the less fortunate but many, including Spradlin, recall his friendly attitude and kind spirit.
“He had a peaceful, loving presence about him that really had an impact on everywhere he went and everyone he knew,” Spradlin said.
Bhandari won’t soon be forgotten, by Kilgore or by the people who knew and loved him.
“His impact will be missed for a long time. He set an example that is very, very difficult for the rest of us to follow.”
Filmmaker Chip Hale had been working on a documentary about Bhandari shortly before he first had a health emergency. The artist’s death will be felt most by the marginalized people he befriended and helped, Hale said.
“It’s just so tragic, the whole thing, especially when you consider that for a certain demographic, a certain fringe of society, he was such an advocate,” Hale said.
“Not just homeless people but people who found themselves in the margins. It’s tragic for that demographic to lose such a positive influence and someone who genuinely cared.”
Hale has a simple recommendation for those who want to estimate the Kilgore artist’s impact on the area.
“You want to measure Anup, you measure by empathy.”
While working on the documentary, Hale followed Bhandari to Newgate Mission and watched him interact with the people there.
The artist would befriend anyone, Hale said, no matter who they were, where they came from or what they looked like.
“It really didn’t matter to Anup. He was really someone who saw a human being in front of him and nothing else.”
Hale is certain Bhandari’s memory will live on as someone who is above reproach.
“Try to find someone to say something negative about Anup Bhandari and you will exhaust yourself trying to find someone to say anything negative about that man.”
Hale’s wish is for those who were inspired by Bhandari’s example to continue the kind of work he carried out, supporting and caring for those who society has seemingly forgotten. There are still many who live in society’s shadow, he said, who need someone to come along, like Bhandari did, to look at them with compassion instead of judgment.
When considering the man, the artist, he knew, Hale is convinced Bhandari is an example of a person who fulfilled their destiny in life.
“I know that Anup, whatever is next for him, whatever we are supposed to learn from this life on this earth, he passed it with flying colors. Whatever is next, Anup is there.”