CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Like many octogenarians, Pete Ballard is getting rid of his possessions.
His, however, aren't going to children and grandchildren; instead, they're headed to museums and art galleries across the country.
On Wednesday, the executive director of the Butler Institute of American Art drove from Youngstown, Ohio, to Monroe County to pick up paintings by Ballard as well as a dozen fashion dolls he created.
"Your paintings are exceptional and will be a fine addition to the Butler collection, which also has one of the most celebrated collections of American Still Life painting," Louis Zona wrote in a December letter to Ballard.
The Butler collection contains works by John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, James Whistler, Jackson Pollock and Andrew Wyeth. It owns the famous Winslow Homer painting "Snap the Whip" of schoolboys playing outside a one-room schoolhouse.
An Edward Hopper painting had just returned from being on loan to the Tate Gallery in London, when Zona spoke by phone last month about the museum and the new acquisitions.
Jack Grand Butler, owner of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co., established the museum in 1919. "He was one of the earliest collectors of American art," Zona said. "While his contemporaries were going to Europe to buy Monets, he was busy buying William Merritt Chase. He was a visionary, and we are reaping the benefits."
For the Butler's permanent collection, Zona selected three of Ballard's paintings: one of lilacs, another of rhododendron and a still life of oranges.
He took several other paintings donated by Ballard that the Butler can auction off to raise money. "It was very generous of Pete," Zona said.
He also left Peterstown with perhaps the last fashion dolls that Ballard will make. The 3-foot-tall papier-mâché dolls are lavishly dressed in historically accurate costumes from the 19th century.
"The doll collection is a new venture for us," Zona said.
Several other regional museums, including the West Virginia State Museum, already have fashion dolls or hat dolls Ballard painstakingly created over the decades.
Among his favorites are those he based on the outfits worn by his friend Vivien Leigh when she played Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 movie "Gone With the Wind."
Last summer, he loaned six Scarlett dolls and one Mammy doll to the North Carolina History Museum in Raleigh when it displayed the extensive Tumblin Collection of "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia.
At the end of the show, Ballard gave Tumblin (whose collection is valued at $66 million) the dolls, and insisted that one more was needed. Scarlett's costumes were all glamorous ones, and Ballard thought he needed to make the threadbare dress the heroine wore through half of the Civil War.