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Endel Uiga Turns 104, and His Art is a Realm of Beauty and Perspective

Apr 12, 2022 03:54PM ● By Steve Sears

Photo: Endel Uiga at his computer

Endel Uiga points to a painting hanging on his Bentley Commons at Paragon Village apartment wall, and asks a visitor, “What do you think that is a painting of?”

After viewing Uiga’s abstract artwork of primarily blues and some red, the visitor says, “It looks like something trying to break through into something else.”

Uiga smiles, and says, “You’re close. It’s called, ‘Glimpse Into the Future.’”

“So, that’s what you painted – that’s what you saw?” the visitor asks.

Uiga responds with a smile, “It doesn’t matter what I see. What do you see?”

A fair enough response from a wonderful man who on March 3rd celebrated his 104th birthday. Uiga, who is quite technologically inclined and talented, creates his artwork, which he labels “Mindscapes,” on a computer. He first takes a photograph, and then Photoshops the image. He has created abut 500 pictures. “When I see something that I find interesting, I’ll take a photo of it and try to manipulate it,” he says.

A variety of his works are displayed both in his living space and in the Paragon Village lobby.

“We (he and Paragon Village) had a big celebration,” he says of his recent birthday. “I was surprised. They served a very good dinner, filet mignon, and had some decorations. You can see here some of the decorations,” he says, pointing around the café area. “I was surprised and pleased.”

For his 100th birthday in 2018, Uiga was in his home of Estonia in northern Europe, both he and his country of origin hitting the century mark. “They had a big celebration,” Uiga says. “It was very moving. I was born in Estonia in 1918. That was just a very, very difficult time for everyone, and I was born at the same time Estonia claimed independence, but that didn't last more than a few days. Then the Germans came in again and took the country over.”

Uiga when 26 was awarded a Diploma in engineering from Tallinn University of Technology of Estonia, and he also served in World War II. “I was in military service. I was trained as an Estonian officer,” he says. He left Estonia during the war with his wife, Elise, and their daughter, fleeing to Germany. He received his doctorate at that country’s University of Stuttgart, and headed for America in the late 1940s, first living in Saratoga, New York prior to the Garden State. He knew no English, but learned it.

Uiga, who when first in New Jersey resided in Rockaway, worked as an electronic engineer, and used the tools of his trade as a County College of Morris professor of Electronic Engineering Technology. When he left the school in 1988, he embraced photography and art, and also did a lot of iron work in a home he designed, built, and lived in in Hope. He is the co-author with Meredith Betz of his memoir, Where the Light Comes From: One Hundred Years Looking Back, and also has published a book of his artwork titled, Mindscapes. Finally, as a recognized expert in his field, after age 70 he wrote an electronic engineering textbook, Optoelectronics, its popularity garnering a second printing.

Uiga’s wife, Elise, to whom he was married for 68 years, died 10 years ago at age 95. A tapestry she made hangs above his bed, and pictures of her by herself and with her husband are in different spots in Uiga’s apartment. In one picture, she smiles while looking down over his shoulder at the computer he creates with.

When asked if he envisions living to age 105, Uiga says with a chuckle, “Not much. Just living day by day.” He then adds, “I'm really happy. I like this country so much. I have relations here which I wouldn't have had in Europe. I have a good family, I have no problems with my children, they are all educated. I have five children, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. I am a happy guy.”