ELIZABETHTOWN — Flaky and fading, the iconic mural of Astronaut Curtis Brown Jr. displayed on the west side of Kinlaw Furniture in downtown Elizabethtown is more than ready and waiting for an extreme makeover. But where the money will come from is keeping fresh paint from finding its way to the building.
The mural, which was painted by Hunt Cole of Image Design in 1992 just two days before Brown lifted off for the stars, was an effort to pay tribute to the hometown hero.
According to the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, Cole said, “We have a downtown revitalization going on and we wanted to do a mural of historic nature. One morning a bunch of guys were eating breakfast at Champs and saw a picture of Curt in the paper. He put the paper down and said ‘That would be a good mural for that wall.’ So we did it.”
The owner of Kinlaw’s Furniture donated the first $1,000 and other donations totaled $3,000 for the original mural.
Brown’s September 1992 trip into space was the biggest thing to happen in Bladen County since the White lake Water Festival, according to some folks at the time. It was also a long way from how many in Elizabethtown knew Brown.
According to the archives, Brown was known around town as the “whiz kid” because he fixed televisions in the back of his father’s store and rode around town in his 1967 Chevelle that he named “Yellow Dog.” Brown graduated from East Bladen High School with the Class of 1974 — then, about 18 years later at the age of 36, he attended the Air Force Academy and later became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
He was selected as an astronaut in 1987.
Just five years later, Cole and his paintbrush went to work.
The original painting was of Brown in his blue Air Force uniform and the earth as the background with “Congratulations Curt Brown, NASA Pilot, Shuttle Endeavor.”
The mural was updated in 2007 with Brown in his space suit with a mustache, and his list of space missions is longer than the original.
Cole said recently that refurbishing or updating the mural has been discussed, but the money to do it has so far been elusive.
Eddie Madden, town manager for Elizabethtown, understands the historical value of the mural and hopes it can be revitalized soon.
“We are entering an annual maintenance agreement so that the mural can be restored as needed instead of waiting for it to get to the point that its needs completely repainted,” he said.
Anyone who would like to help fund the restoration of the moral can do so by sending donations to the town in care of Madden at P.O. Box 716, Elizabethtown, N.C. 28337.
Jessica Edwards can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.