Step into artist Lee Hayden’s Victorian home and you’ll find a friendly orange tabby named Garfield, a sprawling workshop covered in portraits and sketches, and a warm, lovely lady that has touched many lives in Lake Country.
At Shorehaven and Wilkinson Manor, Lee has enriched seniors’ lives teaching them to make soap and candy, paint pumpkins, create Valentine’s Day decor and other seasonal art. For her art business, she has fashioned birdhouses, angels and Santas from gourds, paint bottles and bowling pins. An accomplished portrait artist and oil painter, Lee creates life-like artistic representations that are full of light and movement and feature family members, animals and other people or scenes she finds inspiring.
Prior to retiring from a long career styling hair at Lake Country Hair Design, Lee was the Red Owl deli manager. She is a self-described “crazy artist who likes things that are different.” She once had 66 pieces of art on display at the Oconomowoc Arts Center, where Lee and a couple of friends volunteer twice each year to wax the OAC’s statue, known as ‘Melody’, to maintain its patina. She also serves as a volunteer Board member for Shorehaven and Oconomowoc Festival of the Arts.
In addition to these interests, Lee and her husband were active in bridge club, gourmet club, newcomer’s club and when their children were young, she organized a babysitting co-op.
Question: What inspired you or led you to where you are in life?
Answer: “When I would think about what I really wanted to do, my answer always focused on art. Art was always a focus. I drew and drew and drew as a girl, art was always my forte, I loved it. While my children were young, it was hard to do, but then I started to take watercolor classes with Dorothy Smith on Valley Road. I took those classes every Wednesday night for 40 years and that’s how I met so many people.”
Q. What is your favorite restaurant in Lake Country, and what do you love there?
A. “I really enjoy the scallops at both Sobie’s and Lago Su Bella, and lunch at Bella Gusto and Roots Coffeebar and Cafe.”
Q. How long have you lived or worked in Lake Country?
A. “Since 1970.”
Q. Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in Lake Country?
A. “I can’t name just one person! Connie LaCombe is the warmest, kindest, most giving person I ever met, she should be canonized. Marjorie Babcock is so open to helping people and always there for everyone, her door is always open. Other very admirable people are Pam Thomas, Carl Duke, Betty Schumacher. Dale Dahlke, he’s got so much talent, a beautiful singing voice, knowledge of everything and a heart filled with kindness. I appreciate people who are genuine, and not fake or pretentious.”
Q. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A. “I do love to travel and in recent years I’ve been to Key West, Cuba, Machu Picchu, Oregon, fishing in Canada, Switzerland, a Danube cruise. Panama, Dubai, India and Indonesia are still on my list, I’ve always said I gotta do these things while my legs still work and my mind is clear.”
Q. What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A. “I grew up on a farm in Oregon. When we started going to movies, I enjoyed anything with Debbie Reynolds or Doris Day because they were happy and full of music, singing and dancing.”
Q. What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A. “To be kind to one another. Wake up everyday and ask ‘who can I help today?’, and I do that a lot.”
Q. What is something on your bucket list?
A. “To help Oconomowoc families in need through my group of friends. You gotta make life better for other people. Be a friend, act silly, drink some wine, loan, drop off, give items that people need. Life isn’t about money, it’s about how we are going to leave this world.”
Q. What is your favorite music/three artists you would like to see (dead or alive)?
A. “I’d like to see Seals and Crofts because one of them is a shirttail relation, The Eagles and Neil Diamond live. I also enjoy Garth Brooks, Andre Bucelli, Andre Rue, Adele, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Toni Braxton, and Three Tenors.”
Q. What current / former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Lake Country?
A. “Fox Lake Country Antique Mall and Ben Franklin.”
Q. Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? Where in Lake Country would you have lunch?
A. “Lynne Marris. She’s an interesting artist and teacher. We have painted together and she has the same beliefs and values as me. Bella Gusto.”
Q. What is your favorite thing or something unique about Lake Country?
A. “I love the old houses, the warm community feeling and the friendliness of the residents. There’s lots of good places to walk, and bring your dog, and nice shops.”
Q. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
A. “Living in a new condo at Shorehaven.”
Q. Even for friends or family, what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A. “That I wanted to really be a ballerina when I was growing up. Also, growing up with horses out west I have come to love them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Mary Jane Swedberg at Hoof Beats Express painting her horses and going on sleigh rides.”
Q. What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word home?
A. “Welcome, love, warmth and fun.”
Q. If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to b
your co-star, who would you choose?
A. “Doris Day because I enjoyed her movies, or Renee Zellweger, she can do anything and I love how she sang and danced in Chicago.”
Q. If you had a full time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose?
Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
A. “A chef. I love to cook, but would rather spend time with friends or use my God given talents.”
The Faces of Lake Country is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured, please click the button below.