A paint-spattered drop cloth clung to furniture and covered part of the floor in Southbury artist David Merrill’s living room.
Stepping indoors Thursday, July 18, from a sticky heat, he and Newtown resident Laurie McCollum looked at four-foot-high wooden panels, several of which will complete a 12- by 12-foot veterans mural for Newtown. He hopes to assemble and hang the finished work in October or November in the main hallway of Newtown Municipal Center. The work, which Mr Merrill began in April 2012, will contain the names of Newtown’s men and women who have served in the Armed Forces since 1971 when it is completed. An earlier remembrance for those who served prior to 1971 is in Edmond Town Hall.
Squeezing into the living space now overtaken with this mural project, Mr Merrill positioned a floor lamp to illuminate the freshly painted lettering. Hundreds of precisely spaced and measured letters fill the board top to bottom.
“These were penciled in and blackened and edged with gold,” he said, pointing at the mural. “It was very technical; a lot of measuring and a lot of work.”
Iconic military and patriotic images cover spaces between the intricate sea of names. Earlier, Mr Merrill had asked his guest, “Have you got more names?”
“I do,” Ms McCollum said, handing him a paper with more veterans’ names, which she will continue to collect.
“It’s important that veterans get in touch so they can be added,” Mr Merrill said.
Creating a theme for the mural, other wording includes “honor,” “courage,” “commitment.”
“That’s what it’s really about,” Mr Merrill said.
The mural also includes phrasing that says, “We shall forever be grateful and you will never be forgotten.” Mr Merrill said, “That is a message to the veterans who have given their time to our country so we can remain free.”
Satisfied with the work he has done so far, Mr Merrill said, “It’s the best I can do.” Laughing, he added, “Although, I am 13 years past retirement age.” Explaining his desire to paint, he said, “I can only hope to die with a brush I my hand.”
He said this project is “the hardest I’ve done, not that I would not do it again from the start. I am glad I took it on — a worthy, worthy project.”
Looking at the top panel, curved lettering arching over an image of the flagpole reads “Newtown’s Veterans” in tall blue letters. As Mr Merrill described the planning and time that has gone into the mural so far, Ms McCollum said, “This is a huge undertaking.” It has also been “a long time coming,” she said.
Turning to Ms McCollum, who had initially contacted him about the mural, Mr Merrill told her: “If you called again, I would do it again.”
He has worked on the mural daily since last year, he said, but has not kept track of the time that has gone into it.
“This began in April and is still going.” Unable to put a number of hours on it, he said, “Some days I work longer, others shorter,” saying the number of hours is “many.”
Mr Merrill will coordinate with town officials about a date for a ribbon cutting.
Last April, Ms McCollum and Project Newtown Troops and Veterans committee members had commissioned Mr Merrill to create the mural. She continues to raise funds through various efforts. Residents interested in adding a veteran’s name to the project or making a contribution can send an e-mail to Ms McCollum at Lauriem30@sbcglobal.net.