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Purple Heart mural to be dedicated to public Aug. 7

Honoring the veterans who paid the ultimate price for our country with a mural was an opportunity artist Gary Tillis couldn't pass up.

The newest mural on the floodwall at Center Street Landing recognizes 225 Lawrence County veterans who were killed or missing in action since World War I and those who received the Purple Heart.

"If there was ever an opportunity to volunteer for something -- on this scale in my life -- this was it," Tillis, art coordinator at Ohio University Southern Campus, said. "I have never been as satisfied with a project as this one. To say I am honored is an understatement."

He absolutely couldn't have done it without the help of his assistant, Patty Shively, Tillis said.

"We wouldn't be able to present this completed mural Aug. 7 if it wasn't for her," he said.

Purple Heart Chapter 765 of Ironton will host a public dedication ceremony

at 1:30 p.m.Wednesday on the river side of the floodwall. Special guests for the event will be Congressman Ted Strickland and John Hill, the Ohio State Department Commander of the Purple Heart.

Tillis and Shively will donate their entire commission to the Ohio Foundation to establish scholarships, he said.

"It didn't seem right to take money for this type of project because of the nature of the mural and the chapter," he said. "The project really picked me rather than me picking the project."

They began the project on Memorial day and worked on it three days a week for five or six hours at a time. It is now completed except for the signatures and adding the name of the local chapter, he said.

The mural was conceived before Sept. 11 but he is even more proud to be part of it since the events of that day. Just the satisfaction of completing it was more valuable than any payment that he could have received, he said.

Ronald McFann, local commander of the Purple Heart, said in a press release that it has been a difficult job enlisting members in the Ironton chapter but well worth the effort. He added that they hope to make the community more aware of what the Purple Heart stands for. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune