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Over the moon for Ann’s Choice

Former aerospace-engineer-turned-artist enjoys life in Bucks County

Created date

July 31st, 2017
Len Kornstein’s 3-D painting Sky City hangs in the great room of his home at Ann’s Choice.

Len Kornstein’s 3-D painting Sky City hangs in the great room of his home at Ann’s Choice.

The big windows and abundant natural light in the bedroom of his large and cheerful one-bedroom Brighton apartment home provide an ideal space for Len Kornstein to create three-dimensional paintings and collages. He paints nearly every day and gifts his art to family and friends.

He’s also displayed one of his paintings at The Gallery, an exhibit wall across from the art studio in Liberty Commons Clubhouse of Ann’s Choice, the Erickson Living community in Bucks County where he lives. 

Living a full life

This spring, he started a 3-D painting project for his grandson. Len is meticulously reproducing an aerial photo of Wall Street taken from a mile above the financial district.

“I individually cut out pieces of the buildings from foam board, then I lay them out just like the photo,” says Len. Creating the painting requires great attention to detail, but he enjoys the challenge.

Among Len’s art on display in his great room is an evocative 3-D painting of Sky City, North America’s oldest continuously inhabited community. 

The historic adobe village sits on a mesa west of Albuquerque, N. Mex. Knowing he would paint it some day, Len photographed the site when he and his late wife toured it some years ago.  

He used balsa wood to create the 3-D images of its adobe structures and the ladders connecting them. 

He also finds time to use the treadmill and strength training machines at the campus fitness center and to attend Yiddish club meetings and the ROMEO (Retired Old Men Enjoying Ourselves) group’s monthly breakfasts. 

He rarely misses the Ann’s Choice Lifelong Learning Academy lectures presented by university professors in the campus performing arts center. “There were 17 lectures in the spring session, and I signed up for all of them,” Len says.

Part of an awe-inspiring crowd

While he’s justly proud of his work, art was never Len’s profession. What he did in his career is both intriguing and awe-inspiring. 

An aerospace engineer, Len was involved in the space program in advance of piloted flights. “The only astronauts I knew were monkeys,” he says.

His particular expertise was optics. During the Cold War, that expertise took Len to GE where he played an important role in a highly classified spy satellite program. A citation from GE that recognizes him as a space pioneer hangs in his home. 

The spy satellites were launched by missiles from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base to take photos over China, Russia, and Cuba. 

The program wasn’t declassified until 1995, so that’s when Len received his citation. He also received a shadowbox containing a glass replica of a spy satellite; one of the actual satellites is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. 

Len’s neighbors likely do not have aerospace-related stories of their own. Then again, Ann’s Choice community members never know where campus conversations will lead, which could be why Len says, “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

So long, loneliness

Len moved to Ann’s Choice from an assisted living facility in Marlton, N.J, where he lived with his late wife during her illness. 

After she passed, the setting held too many memories for Len to stay there.

So he and his daughter visited Ann’s Choice where he already knew someone who lived there, his daughter’s mother-in-law.  

Len liked the community immediately, especially the friendliness he encountered. 

He realized that Ann’s Choice’s 150-plus activities and special-interest groups guaranteed he’d never be bored.

“I returned the next day and reserved an apartment then and there,” Len says. He moved in just a year ago.