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Monmouth mural unveiled after extended
stay in Airlie


December 7, 2011

Source: Justin Much, StatesmanJournal.com  

A colorful public-safety themed mural that had been collecting dust in Airlie
for years finally found a home.

Representatives from Polk Fire District
No. 1, City of Monmouth and Monmouth
Police were among those in attendance
Tuesday morning, Dec. 6, at the official
unveiling of the mural at Big Town Hero
sandwich shop.

Big Town owners Gary Breunle and Robert
Wellman joined City Manager Scott McClure,
and councilors Darin Silbernagel and Chris
Larsen in tending to the physical honors of
pulling the tarp off. An informal
acknowledgement ceremony gave way to
the quick plop of the heavy canvass falling
from the roughly 400-pound combined
mural and framework.

Division Chief/Fire Marshal Jeff Donahue
cited several elements of safety within
the artwork, including a kid strapped in
a car safety seat, a bicyclist standing
and waiting for traffic to clear, the
cyclist and a skateboarder wearing helmets and other safety equipment.

Donahue noted that McMinnville artist John Palacios created the mural the better part of a decade ago. Donahue’s best guess is that the process of finding a home and erecting the work hit a few snags, sending it to storage, ultimately being stored at No. 1’s rural Airlie fire station. He believes it’s probably been there since 2003.

Oregon Department of Transportation originally financed the work and wanted it to be placed in a visible location. Big Town’s site at Hwy. 99W and Powell Street sees plenty of traffic, and Breunle and Wellman were amenable to the addition, which is front and center on their building. Thoughts of the once lost mural resurfaced almost accidentally.

The fire department is a member of the Willamette Valley Safe Kids Coalition, and a representative from SW Rural Fire, Judy Lambert, encountered an ODOT representative at a meeting who asked about the forgotten mural. Upon investigation, Donahue discovered its location. “Luckily it didn’t get thrown away,” Donahue said. The mural was likely first placed at the Monmouth station, then moved to Airlie after that station closed. It faced the station wall and more and more storage was placed in front of it until it was essentially out of sight, out of mind.

Once re-discovered a number of fire department volunteers went to work restoring and securing it while finding the appropriate home, including volunteers Shawn Quilty, Wally Schmidt and Bob McMillian, a department chaplain and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church.

“What’s interesting is that while it’s in Monmouth, a number of the volunteers who made this happen are from Independence,” Donahue said, citing Robert Lloyd Sheet Metal, Dave Upton’s Town & Country Hardware and R&J Mobility Service among others.

McClure said Monmouth is a mural-friendly city. Coincidentally, that Tuesday’s council agenda was scheduled to address the addition of an historical mural at Volunteer Hall. Other city murals are painted in Gentle Woods Park, Main Street Park and on the side of the shopping mall across from the Monmouth Public Library on S. Ecols St., while Western Oregon University also sports a number of dynamic artistic displays throughout the year.

Police Chief Darrell Tallan also gave a nod to the work during the informal ceremonial unveiling, saying that its visibility and safety emphasis is a good message to send to those who view it.

More Resources

Polk 1 Firefighters Association
International Association of Firefighters - Local 4196
Emergency Reporting - Members Only Login
Job Announcements for the Polk County Fire District
Common Voices - www.fireadvocates.org

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