Artist's family seeks painting taken from St. Joseph's

- A Bay Area artist's painting once hung on the wall above the holy water in St. Joseph Hospital's chapel, but the painting has gone missing and the artist's daughter - who is now a patient at the hospital - hopes it can return to its rightful place.

Elaine Williams said she remembers what it was like to gaze at her father's painting of Michelangelo's Pieta sculpture in the chapel. 

"We would go in the chapel and look at it hanging over the holy water and just fill with pride," she said. "It took him four years to paint and two years to carve the frame."

Williams was a child when her dad made the painting, which was about three feet wide. She says her father, Tony Militelo, was a truck driver by trade, but an artist at heart.

"He didn't show off (his talent)," she said. "He just did it because he loved it."

Militelo donated the Pieta to St. Joseph's Hospital.

Now, Williams is sick. Rheumatoid arthritis has attacked her lungs, and she's hoping for a transplant. She says she would love nothing more than to have her dad's original Pieta.

However, St. Joseph's says the painting has been missing for about 10 years. Administrators said they hoped the attention of a news story would bring leads.

FOX 13 News medical doctor Joette Giovinco is Elaine Williams' cousin. Dr. Jo says the Pieta is more than a piece on a wall. It may be a key to a new phase for Elaine.

"We want it back. That's the bottom line. We want it where it should be, where my uncle intended it to be," Giovinco explained. "Studies are showing, time after time that, improving how you feel, your outlook, all those things help you in your recovery."

Militelo died in 2008. His artwork is displayed around Tampa, including a bust at a church in Ybor.

Finding his Pieta may truly bring a renaissance.

"I have good days and bad days," said Williams. "The bad days are difficult, and those are the days I really think about having that here and giving me peace and strength and comfort."

St. Joseph's could not immediately say whether the missing painting was reported to police, but administrators said they are looking into it. They also say security around artwork in the hospital has been stepped up since the painting's disappearance.

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