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Arts & Life

After 35 Years, A Nelson Security Guard Calls It A Day

The oldest, and longest-serving, employee at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art retired on Aug. 31.

Henry J. ("Hank") Raya studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and served in the U.S. Navy before working for two decades as an illustrator at The Kansas City Star. Then he stepped into a new career: as a security guard at the Nelson-Atkins, where he's helped the visitors and protected the art for 35 years. 

"It was through the Art Institute, the teachers, that I had happened to get acquainted with the museum. And I decided to look it up," Raya says. "It was so big that I said, it's a nice place to be at, you know. So I decided to work in security, which was pretty much open and much needed."

According to Raya, he's often drawn to works with religious themes. His favorite: Caravaggio's Saint John the Baptist in the Wildnerness. Now 82, Raya says his health and the desire to spend more time with his family and on his own artwork factored into his decision to retire. 

"I'll be back [at the museum]," he says. "The last day will be the beginning of another beginning, so to speak. There is no last day. There is always a beginning."

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