Leo Villafana Artist, drug counselor


April 08, 1991

A memorial service for Leo Villafana, a free-spirited artist and recovering alcoholic who later worked as an alcohol and drug counselor, was held yesterday at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld funeral home.

Mr. Villafana, who was 64, died of cancer Saturday at the Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore.

Born in Puerto Rico, he grew up in New York. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he gained a reputation as an impressionistic painter of street scenes, several of which were sold to such Hollywood figures as Edward G. Robinson.

A colorful, ebullient man, Mr. Villafana entertained friends by playing the classical guitar and gained pocket money as a professional magician.

His career as an artist and magician, as well as his guitar playing, was adversely affected when he cut off two fingers while trying to frame one of his paintings.

Mr. Villafana's personal life was beset with bouts of alcoholism during his younger years, and he took great pride later at having spent 21 1/2 years sober. He regularly attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

He moved to Baltimore in 1968 from New York's Greenwich Village.

A high school dropout, he later earned high school equivalency certification and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology from Towson State University at the age of 52. He then spent 10 years as a drug and alcohol counselor at various clinics in the Baltimore area.

He took art education courses at Towson State University in the past year, hoping to become an art professor, said Cay Pollon, who lived with Mr. Villafana on Miles Avenue. Mr. Villafana was a member of MENSA.

Mr. Villafana's three marriages ended in divorce.

Survivors include six daughters, Teri Lynn Villafana of West New York, N.J., Heidi Nissen and Tanya Villafana, both of New York, Catherine Villafana of Darien, Conn., Karina Monroe of Holyoke, Mass., and Rosa Villafana of Baltimore; a son, Leo Villafana III of San Diego; two brothers, Raymond Villafana of Citrus, Fla., and Theodore Villafana of Philadelphia; and two grandchildren.

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