- Kelly Meredith's paint-splattered uniform and face tell us what she does. But the Butternut muralist prefers to think of her job as a historian.
"Those stories need to go out to the rest of us," Meredith said.
Brush stroke by brush stroke, Meredith went to work this spring, painting the uniforms and faces of Northwoods World War II veterans and bringing their stories back to life.
"They weren't gods and heroes," Meredith said. "They're ordinary people who overcame their fear and the courage and dignity to basically save the world."
Meredith's work is part of a two-year art project.. The plan is to cover the sides of the Park Falls American Legion Post with the murals. The first one went up Monday and Tuesday. The mural pushed Meredith's total portrait count to 1,193.
Post commander Wayne Herbst helped hang the panels.
"I'm of the age where I know many of those veterans personally," Herbst said while looking at the mural Friday morning.
Herbst says most of the men in the mural returned to quiet lives after the war. He thinks the art gives them the recognition they deserve.
"We veterans honor and take care of other veterans so I'm proud as a veteran that we can honor these World War II guys," Herbst. "I always call them heroes."
Families pay $250 to sponsor their veteran's image. They then give Meredith a picture and basic info. It's a price families don't mind paying.
"It gives you the goosebumps and it keeps memories going forever, it really will," project organizer Lauri Marsh said. One of Marsh's great grandfather's is on the mural.
For Meredith, the art is as much about looking back as it is ahead. She hopes her strokes of history will inspire the future.
"What am I doing with my own life to be worthy of that sacrifice, to be worthy of that gift that I've been given," Meredith asked people to consider. "Am I up to that level? Am I up to that level of sacrifice?
Meredith is currently working on a mural to go up on the post's southern wall. It should be finished by early August.
If you're interested in sponsoring a family member, contact Lauri Marsh at 715-297-3790.
The Park Falls American Legion Hall will hold an Independence Day celebration with an informal mural dedication starting Saturday at 11 a.m.