After 19 months missing, the portrait of Dr. C.K. Mills has been returned to North Texas Medical Center. The portrait was returned after business hours Monday, according to Gayla Blanton, director of marketing for the hospital.

“It was brought in by a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous,” Blanton said. “The portrait is currently being rehabbed and will be returned to its place in the historic gallery soon.”

Mills was a longtime Gainesville ophthalmologist.

“Dr. Mills practiced in Gainesville for 30 years,” Blanton said. “He was among the first set of inductees into our historic gallery when it was established in November 1998.”

The historic gallery is on display on a wall near the board room of the hospital, consisting of about 30 notable physicians.

The backing of the frame and a plaque were missing, and the frame was slightly damaged, but the photograph is intact, Blanton said.

Newspaper reports on the theft contributed to the return of the portrait, she said.

“He remembered the press on it and thought it needed to be returned to us,” Blanton said of the man who found the portrait.

According to the Dec. 4, 2004, edition of the Register, police were contacted to investigate the disappearance of the walnut-wood framed, black-and-white portrait. A fire extinguisher and a “Do not disturb” sign were also found missing at the time, as a cleaning crew reported for duty early on the morning of Nov. 28, 2004, a Monday. At that time, the hospital’s corridors were not monitored by cameras.

“Theft is few and far between,” Blanton said. “But being a public facility that is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, we’re more prone to it.”

The picture and the frame, along with the gold plaque, were worth an estimated $250.

But the photograph itself was the hospital staff’s main concern. It was soon learned that photos of the late ophthalmologist were few and far between. One could not be found to run in the Register or from which to make a replacement portrait — even from family members.

An empty space remained on NTMC’s wall of fame for nearly two years. For a few months standard-size paper note in that space requested the thief return the portrait, but to no avail.

Blanton at the time asked anyone with information contact the hospital — “No questions asked.”

She kept her word.

“I can’t ask the anonymous gent any questions,” Blanton said. “He is afraid that he will be held responsible for the theft and doesn’t want any further involvement.”

Blanton said the man found it in the back of a closet as he was moving out of a house. He has suspicions about who stole the portrait but he did not give any names. She said the man reported he was unaware the portrait was in the closet until he emptied it before the move.

The return of the portrait may be a small act, but it restores hope to anyone who has had something of value stolen.

“It certainly gladdened my heart when that portrait, which was long gone and we thought we would never get back, was returned,” she said.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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