CHARLIE Ragazzi didn't set out to become a local identity - he just loved to paint.
But the former prisoner of war became a familiar and popular sight as he sat beside his blue van, capturing another Sunshine Coast scene on canvas.
That was exactly what the 91-year-old set out to do last Tuesday when he became ill.
Friend of 35 years, Pam Vause, found a seriously-ill Charlie in his van at Charlie Morland Park, by Yabba Creek - one of his favourite spots to paint.
He passed away in hospital the next morning.
Mrs Vause and her husband Ted met Charlie when he was camped on the side of the road near their home, south of Tweed Heads.
They invited him to stay and each winter he would escape the cold of Melbourne, until he finally moved to the Sunshine Coast 20 years ago.
A European immigrant, he told them he had settled in Australia after the Second World War.
He lived with his wife in a small house in the outer suburbs of Melbourne but when she died he packed his paints and began roaming.
"Many people stopped and offered Charlie thousands of dollars for his paintings but he couldn't ever let them go," Mrs Vause said.
"In his later years Charlie loved sitting and painting near Charlie Morland Park.
"He would sit under the shady trees and talk while he painted to those that passed by. He had a wonderful memory and could quote his Bible, verse by verse."
About five years ago he became very ill and after a stay in hospital he was placed in an aged care facility.
He was so miserable that friends Milly and Atila Joo took him home to their property near Kenilworth, where he stayed until he died. His funeral will be held at the Landsborough Seventh Day Adventist Church at 2pm Thursday.
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