In 1953, he and his late wife, Elsa, settled into the Quentin Road home he has lived in ever since.
Elsa, who he says was a descendant of Spanish royalty, died 12 years ago. Looking around his lair, he says that hidden among the boxes are pieces of Hitler’s toilet retrieved from his bunker.
One of the Bergère photos is of his then girlfriend Lysiane.
“When people ask me about Nuremberg, they want to know what I was thinking of when I was drawing all those Nazis,” Vebell said.
But it did not stop him from drawing and succeeding in his craft, one that he credits for a life he calls lucky. “I was the luckiest soldier to be an artist.” Vebell said initially he was assigned to be an aircraft gunner, an assignment that had claimed many lives. I felt like Lawrence of Arabia.” There, he also resumed another one of his passions forged in a Chicago club, fencing.
All of Vebell’s collections, especially military artifacts, were accumulated, so he could have precise representations in his drawings and photographs.
“I was thinking about my girlfriend back in Paris and who she might be with.” He becomes more serious when he discusses focusing on some faces of history’s Nazi monsters, such as Hermann Goring, “He sat the closest to me,” Rudolf Hesse and Wilhelm Keitel.
“We had to use a pen, so there would be no changes,” Vebell said. People said they were damn good drawings.” So much so that they are currently in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D. Vebell’s other works devoted to Americana, Native Americans and then popular culture in advertising are in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. Vebell’s wartime experiences are also the focus of two books by him being released this summer, “The 40 Bergère” about his bawdy time in Paris and “An Artist at War.” Both are being published by Schiffer Publishing, he said.
A partial list includes more than 100 swords, centuries old, in a bucket; collections of Native American knives in different locations; original military uniforms from the Revolutionary War forward; flintlocks and bayonets; Native American arrows; Custer’s bullets; and a laundry pile of historic hats. Wellington and Aren were also there to sort and file Vebell’s artwork and put them in folders.
The latter includes military hats from the French Revolution, the War of 1812, an iron 1650 Jamestown helmet and a World War I German pilot’s leather helmet. “Each one tells a story,” the tall, white-haired and mustachioed Vebell said.
Below is a profile of him published by Westport Now in 2016.