The list of names of Newtown’s service men and women names will continue to grow and be honored, thanks to Laurie McCollum, a member of the local chapter of The Blue Star Mothers of America.
Picking up where Newtown’s list of veterans leaves off at the year 1971 in murals at Edmond Town Hall, Ms McCollum, with help from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 308 members and the careful hand of artist David Merrill, intends to create a second veterans’ mural in Newtown Municipal Center. The new list will begin at 1971 and continue through the present, also including any names that may not have made it into the first mural.
After initiating the artwork at Edmond Town Hall, Ms McCollum wanted to continue her project recognizing the town’s veterans, including her son Rylan, a Marine Corps sergeant. She has again commissioned David Merrill to paint the names and mural on the municipal buildings walls in Fairfield Hills. “I thought, who better,” she said.
She is now preparing a letter to residents seeking the names of service men and women to include in the new artwork, and also seeking donations to help fund the project. The mural will leave room for additional names if anyone is missed.
First Selectman Pat Llodra is excited by the project. She said, “I am confident that this creation will serve as an appropriate tribute to our veterans and I look forward to dedicating space in our government building to their honor.”
She is also confident that Mr Merrill’s artwork will draw attention. She noted that he is an “accomplished artist” who created “beautiful murals,” including a series in the Edmond Town Hall and on a series of live trees at the Lasher property on Route 302 depicting an American flag.
The VFW Post 308 Vice Commander James Rebman said, “We’re backing [Ms McCollum]” on this project. He and post Commander Dan Kearns and resident Kaki Taylor are helping Ms McCollum gather names and raise donations. Regarding Mr Merrill’s ideas that he recently shared with town officials, Mr Rebman said, “I think it will be one of the nicest things in the town hall. His mural for the military will be a showpiece and a tribute to Newtown.” He said it will be moving.
Ms McCollum did not want to give away details for how the mural will turn out, but hinted, “[Mr Merrill] has a vision, luckily for us.” The work will be an honor to the veterans and may incorporate the archways on the long central hall at the municipal center. She hopes to unveil the work by Veterans Day in November.
“This is a big undertaking; a lot of names and a lot of work,” she said.
Eligible veterans include those living in town now, or who are native to Newtown. Veterans did not necessarily have to have seen combat. Families or veterans in the service since 1971 or who may not have been included in the mural covering those in the service from 1940 through 1971 should contact Ms McCollum at 203-788-4079 or LaurieM30@sbcglobal.net.
Residents can speak with her Monday, May 28, at the VFW Post 308 on Freedom Defenders Way off Tinkerfield Road, before and after the Memorial Day service at 11 am, where she will have a table set up to collect veterans’ names, and contributions, to the project.
Ms McCollum is a member of the Northern Fairfield County Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America.