By Christin Ayers

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – A Bay Area woman thought she would never get a prized family painting back, months after it was stolen right off her doorstep.

Nellie Hill has loved it since the day her parents brought it home from Paris back in 1957. The artist, Geo Duchesne, even wrote a note to her parents on the back.

“I’ve always loved the painting because of the nature, the kind of quiet nature scene that pulls you inward,” Hill told KPIX 5.

Hill was delighted last January, when her mom gave her the painting, just months before she died.

“She said yes and told everybody that’s Nellie’s,” Hill recalled.

Hill had the painting shipped from Illinois. But within an hour of being delivered to her doorstep in Berkeley, someone swiped it.

“It was gone,” Hill said.

Hill went on a campaign to find the painting. She even posted a sign on her house. “Please return the painting. Reward, no questions asked,” Hill said.

Hill sent information about the painting to the website stolen911.com. The site’s creator, a Bay Area CHP officer, calls it the Craigslist of stolen property.

While Hill was hopeful, seven months ticked by before she received a phone call last week.

“The phone call was a complete surprise,” Hill said. “And he said, ‘We have your painting.’”

Hill said the man on the other end had a dubious story about an art collector friend passing it on to him, but when he saw the painting on Stolen 911, he called her and then brought it to her.

“It was a godsend. I mean, just a miracle,” Hill said.

The frame has a few dings, but Hill thinks those can be fixed. She says this is the happy ending her mother, who died in May, would have wanted.

“She’d like the story. The painting had an adventure! And now it’s getting seen by a lot of people, which it deserves,” Hill said.

Christin Ayers

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