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Ga. artist changing the country one bottle cap at a time

Sometimes I think we're destined to meet certain people.

That person for me is Jimmy "Cap Man" Straehla. I became familiar with Straehla when I was in Asheville, N.C., this past April and stopped at a gallery that sold his artwork. His creations were eye-catching because he paints pieces of lumber with bright colors and writes inspirational messages on them. And all the pieces have bottle caps nailed to them -- his signature mark.

It wasn't until I read his biography that I came to truly appreciate the depth of his art. Straehla was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago and after sixth months of chemo, he was completely cancer free. Soon after, he started creating his artwork to inspire others to remember that life is good and things always have a way of working out.

Fast forward to August and I'm in Athens having lunch with a friend and we're leaving a restaurant. Outside right in front of us was a truck covered in bottle caps. My friend immediately said, "Oh cool, Cap Man is here." I immediately perked up and asked, "Does Cap Man live here?" My friend went on to tell me that Straehla is well known in Athens and lives in Winterville. She also told me that he sells his artwork at two shops there.

Just as we're having that conversation, a man walks out of a store and my friend immediately said hello and it was Cap Man. I introduced myself and told him his work inspired me. He was so nice and gracious enough to take a picture with me in front of his bottle cap truck. It was one of those surreal moments for me because I had been a fan of his work for months and was so moved by his story.

If there's one thing I've learned from Straehla, it's that life is unexpected but you have to appreciate the good things in your life. If I've had a bad day, I try to look at his artwork hanging in my apartment and remember what he's been through and always appreciate the things that I have. I think we can all take that lesson and use it in our lives, especially with Christmas right around the corner.

So if you're ever in Athens, stop by Frontier or Agora to check out his stuff.

And who knows, you might just run into him.

For more information on Straehla, visit www.thecapman.us.

Tori Boone is a copy editor for the Daily Post. Email her at tori.boone@gwinnettdailypost.com.