Lawton citizens who drive West Gore Boulevard might have already noticed it: A new mural representing Lawton heroes by Darry and Terry Shaw adorns the north wall of Lawton Nutrition, No. 6 SW 11th, just behind the Stripes gas station.
It follows a ‘Hero’ theme, displaying some of the most accomplished community members in Lawton, as a way of honoring all those who are serving the Lawton community, Jeff Sadler said. He bought the mural that was donated by the Shaw brothers to the United Way.
“It’s more than just those seven people,” Sadler said. “We’re thanking and honoring everyone.”
Terry Shaw emphasized that “anybody can be a hero. Many people in those professions do great things.”
According to Shaw, it took three days to paint, but it took much longer to create the design.
Sadler first had the idea in 2020, when COVID-19 was raging.
“I felt we need to do something, and my first idea was ‘Let’s do soldiers’,” Sadler said. Eventually, he and the Shaw brothers settled on the ‘Hero’ design, highlighting several Lawton personalities who had immense impact on the community.
The mural shows First Baptist Church Lawton Senior Pastor Mike Keahbone, a generic face of a female firefighter, beloved late-Police Officer C.H. Brazzel, Cameron University chemistry teacher Dr. Elizabeth Ann Nalley, former doctor Dr. Bill Jolly representing the medical community, Albert Johnson Jr. representing the military, and a composite image of a construction worker. The image was painted over the long-standing Johnson’s Bakery painting on the building.
“They did a fine job,” Jolly said when he visited the mural on last week. Jolly is about to turn 100, and served for 14 months in the Korean War. He practiced as independent doctor for internal medicine in Lawton from 1956 until his retirement in 1996. After his retirement, he remained active in civic affairs and served on several boards.
What is his secret for a long and healthy life? “I never smoked, kept close to a normal weight and was quite active and on my feet all day,” he said.
Keahbone said he felt “overwhelmed” when he realized he was one of the people on the mural.
“I am really humbled,” he said. “I didn’t feel worthy to be with those people.”
Keahbone recalled he didn’t know about it until he started getting text messages and calls.
“I knew nothing about it. I denied it all the way up until it was confirmed. Then, it became surreal. There are some real local legends on there,” he said.
Keahbone, who was the first pastor of color in his church, said that a priority for his church was to love his community in any way they can.
“We want to help and be involved in the community,” he said. “We are providing food, counseling, and we are using our building as safety shelter for cooling or warming.”
Albert Johnson Jr., who is vice president for University Advancement at Cameron University, said he didn’t find out about the mural until the past week.
“I’m humbled and honored,” he said.
Johnson grew up in Lawton and graduated from Cameron. Then, he served in the Army for 28 years and then chose Lawton as his retirement home. Now, he represents Cameron University’s Foundation and tries to stay connected to the community.
“I’ve lived in a lot of places,” he said. “Lawton is the most diverse community I’ve ever lived in. The people here are some of the finest.”
Johnson said that people who think there’s nothing to do in Lawton should just look for it. Lawton is progressing and full of opportunities, he said. He mentioned Goodyear manufacturing and FISTA as examples, as well as all the small businesses in Lawton and Cameron University.
Nalley, who is Endowed Chair of Mathematics and Science and a chemistry professor at Cameron, where she started teaching in 1969, said the was “excited and flattered that I had been chosen.”
Nally has been a role model for many, especially young women in science. She was the first woman to be a full professor at Cameron University, she was the first woman to be named Oklahoma Chemist, and she was the first woman to be elected as National President of the American Chemical Society, one of the largest scientific societies in the world.
Despite her long career (it’s her 54th year at Cameron) and several awards, such as the Oklahoma Foundation For Excellence Mentoring Award, she is not even close to stopping what she’s doing. This summer, she is teaching several science academies, among them the Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mathematics for Middle School Girls academy this week.