NORTHPORT - Thomas Kinkade, one of America's most popular painters, died yesterday at the age of 54, and tonight, a Long Islander is remembering her special connection with him.

Author Anne Canadeo, of Northport, may be best known under her pen name, Katherine Spencer. About 10 years ago, Canadeo says she was approached by Kinkade's representative asking her to write a book.

Kinkade's messages of hope, faith and optimism found in his own artwork turned into a series of more than a dozen novels ghostwritten by Canadeo, which focus on characters who overcome challenges to see the light.

"I think that Thomas' goal was to bring art and to bring positive messages and beauty to a mass audience," Canadeo says.

Many of Kinkade's paintings ended up in LaMantia Gallery in Northport. The owners of the gallery say they've been getting a lot of phone calls from people inquiring about the artist and his works.

Kinkade passed away at his California home from what appear to be natural causes.