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Three designs compete for WWII mural
Janice Zacharias takes a picture of one of the three murals on display Wednesday at the American Legion hall to show an elderly neighbor who wasnt able to attend the meeting. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

The building is almost completely bombed out. 

With just an empty concrete wall serving as the backdrop to a dreary, gray sky, Dave Gordon’s pitch for a World War II memorial mural is almost depressing at first glance. The colors are dark and somber. Any allusion to “the greatest generation” is rising like the smoke that emanate from behind the broken buildings. 

But then you notice the soldiers. And then you see the light. 

Hunkered down in foxholes, American troops – most likely serving in the European theater – smile as they clutch in their hands letters from home that bring the news of family and the news of a life they’re fighting to protect. A radiant glow comes from the thin sheets of paper that seem to do more to raise their spirits and morale than anything else could. 

And that’s exactly what Gordon – who painted Manteca’s first mural at the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street and has traveled to Tunisia as the guest of local business owner Sam Guedoir to leave his artistic touch in the North African country during an annual festival – was going for. 

As one of the three finalists that will be chosen by the Manteca Mural Society to paint the WWII mural on the side of the Manteca Bedquarters building across from where the first mural went up, Gordon’s design was on display at the American Legion hall Wednesday afternoon for a public viewing as a way to solicit input from local war veterans. 

In the eyes of group President Tom Wilson, it’s their input that will make the difference and offer a sense of realism in the design and implementation. 

“I honestly don’t think that anybody could that didn’t participate or grow up during that time could adequately describe it,” Wilson said. “For the men – and women – that are willing to talk about it has been incredibly insightful and you really begin to understand the sorts of things that they saw and the sacrifices that they made.

“We’re hopeful that we’re able to capture that.”

Wilson said that cost of the individual mural will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 and the group has currently raised just over $6,000 – hoping to come up with ways to work with service groups and veterans organizations to come up with the rest of the funding so that the mural can be completed by Veteran’s Day of this year. 

The other murals – one by Don Gray that shows the flag being raised at Iwo Jima and a representative of each of the individual entities that bonded together to help secure victory at home and abroad and another by Colleen Veyna that shows a soldier in the foreground with troops parading through the Arc de Triomphe while a pair of women riveters work on an airplane – will be considered in the same process. 

Veyna has an alternative proposal that shows the crosses at a cemetery in Normandy for a more somber approach. Both of her submissions have the focus art in black-and-white with an American flag border and seals of each of the branches of the armed services in color. 

“I really like the concept that we’re doing something like this for our WWII veterans,” said residence Janice Zacharias who was there to take pictures for an elderly neighbor that couldn’t attend the meeting. “I don’t know if I like one more than the others. I do like the Iwo Jima one because it’s such a timeless picture, but maybe with a little less smoke and fire in it. 

“It’s my first time, but I like what each of them have to offer.”