LYNN — When it comes to recognizing a part of Lynn’s heritage behind which all the diverse elements of the city can gather, there’s nothing quite like sports.
That is especially true with football, says Carolyn Cole, director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District.
That is why, with her public art project, Cole took committee member Leah Warren’s suggestion that the city sponsor a sports mural that depicts football heroes past and present.
Warren got the idea two years ago when she went to Bucknell University for a Hall of Fame ceremony, and saw a mural inside the gym with a collage of pictures from a recent championship team.
“I thought we should have something like that in Lynn,” she said. “You go to Fraser Field, and there are all kinds of pictures of Lynn baseball history. But we had nothing about football.”
Cole said it wasn’t a difficult decision to choose Warren’s suggestion out of all the ones she received.
“It seemed to encompass a lot of different things,” Cole said. “It’s important to recognize our legacy like this.”
The mural will be unveiled Sunday June 23, on the first day of Agganis Week, the five-day stretch that honors the memory of Harry Agganis with a series of nine games, including football.
“That seemed to be the most appropriate time to do this,” said Warren, whose husband, Chris, was quarterback when Lynn English went to the Division 3 Super Bowl. Chris Warren’s cousin, Rick Drislane, a Lynn Tech star who died in an auto accident just weeks after playing in his last game, is also depicted on the mural.
“I think it’s important, because it seems that Lynn sports prior to the 1980s is almost forgotten,” said Chris Chipouras, whose father, George, played for Lynn English and is depicted on the mural. “It’s a forgotten era. We need to keep these days alive.”
The mural was an ambitious undertaking. It will be 22 feet long and four feet deep, and placed outside the facility, next to the ticket window. Warren handled all the research and, over a two-year period, assembled photos wherever she could find them. Some came from The Item’s files, some from the families of athletes depicted, and some from the Lynn Museum.
The actual cost of the project was slightly under $1,700, with the bulk of the funding ($1,300) coming via a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council.
“The toughest aspect of this was the preparation,” Warren said, adding that football historians such as Classical alumnus John Muckian and St. Mary’s graduate John Hoffman helped her immeasurably.
The mural depicts a wide range of former Lynn football players, going back to the Chipouras era at English, along with Warren, Dick Newton, Brian Vaughan, Ed Toner and Greg Landry. It also includes Agganis, Boley Dancewicz, Arthur and Jeff Akers, Tony Thurman, Stu Primos and Gerry LeBrasseur from Classical; Drislane, Stefan Gravely and Pete Pedro of Lynn Trade/Tech; and Joe DiVito, Ray Armstead and the 2016 St. Mary’s football team.
“I think it’s wonderful to celebrate our city’s great history,” said Toner, who played at UMass-Amherst and then for the Boston Patriots in the mid-1960s.
LeBrassuer, who has an “Ironman” award given in his name each year at the Classical football banquet, also gave his endorsement.
“Now people can see what great days those were,” he said. “It’s a one-time thing right now …”
“… But,” said Cole, “this is the type of thing that doesn’t have to remain stagnant. It can grow. The city has a great legacy in all sports.”