Photo by Chad Koenen
Orin Petersen displays one of the pictures he colored over the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic. He started coloring pictures as a way to pass time during the stay at home orders. 

By Chad Koenen


Orin Petersen is quick to point out that he is a self taught man when it comes to putting some Crayola crayons to a coloring book. But after taking a hiatus from coloring for most of his life, the 97-year-old resident at Mills Manor feels like a kid again, as he found a unique way to pass  time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Petersen’s son-in-law gave him a coloring book with a box of crayons. Though he hadn’t colored since he was in kindergarten, and nothing much was said about the coloring book at the time, Petersen picked up the book a few weeks later and began coloring as a way to pass the time.  

“My son-in-law laid some coloring crayons and a book here. It laid there for about a month and I never looked at it,” said Petersen. “Finally one day I picked it up and I started coloring.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions over visitation at Mills Manor continued, Petersen continued to pick up his growing number of coloring books and crayons to color. Over the past 6-8 months he has colored well over 50 pictures, including everything from farm scenes to animals and even a framed picture of a boat in the water in his room. The boat, of course, has the word Lunds going across the side of it. 

“I didn’t have nothing else to do I suppose,” he said. “It was one way to pass the time, and of course the kids are pretty smart. They bragged up my coloring so that eggs me on”

Petersen has given away most of the pictures he has colored, but is quick to point out he is not a professional and was self trained—for the second time in coloring. He has never charged anyone for a colored picture and laughed at the notion of being paid for something he enjoys to do. 

Though he took a break from coloring for over 90 years, Petersen said he has enjoyed the unique way he has been able to spread some cheer with his friends and family members during these uncertain times. 

“My son-in-law laid some coloring crayons and a book here. It laid there for about a month and I never looked at it. Finally one day I picked it up and I started coloring.”

Orin petersen

“When you are 97 years old you don’t want to plan too far in advance,” said Petersen, adding he will be 98 next month. “I really enjoy it and it kind of makes you happy if people come and ask you for one.”

Sitting in a plastic bag next to his chair in his room at Mills Manor are the next batch of pictures that Petersen colored and will be given away. Many of the pictures are framed and waiting for the family to celebrate Christmas in the near future. That’s when they can see what the longtime NY Mills resident has been up to during COVID-19.   

“I colored and that’s the only way I could give my Christmas kids a Christmas present,” said Petersen. “We got them all bundled up waiting for Christmas to happen.”