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Mural in Jefferson Park Honors Slain Chicago Police Officers

By Heather Cherone | October 24, 2012 4:50pm | Updated on October 25, 2012 9:26am

JEFFERSON PARK — A mural honoring 560 Chicago police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1853 might change an industrial corner known for its crime into a shrine.

The mural lists the names of the fallen officers. Creation of the mural — titled End of Watch, located near the Kennedy Expressway and Montrose Avenue — was sparked by the November 2010 death of Officer Michael Flisk, who was shot and killed while investigating a vehicle burglary on the South Side.

“I just want people to know that cops do more than write tickets,” said Mike Brown, whose post on EveryBlock.com seeking help to create a mural to honor Flisk led him to ArtsAlive45, a nonprofit public art group the Jefferson Park and Portage Park.

Brown, who lives about five minutes away from the mural at Montrose and Knox avenues, did not know Flisk or his family when the project started. But he has since become friends with the officer’s widow, Nora Flisk, and their four children.

“I was just really moved by his death,” Brown said. “I wanted to do something.”

Since the mural’s dedication in September, police have been called to the two blocks around the mural for a variety of crimes, including battery, heroin possession, trespassing and vandalism, according to department reports.

Steve Adamczyk, who walks by the mural twice a day on his way from the Montrose station on the CTA’s Blue Line to the Cicero bus, said he hoped it would spruce up the bleak stretch.

“I’m concerned about someone putting their own mark on the mural,” Adamczyk said. “Hopefully, they’ll have enough respect and not do that.”

The mostly blue-and-black mural, 90 feet long and 13 feet high, stretches across a retaining wall along the Union Pacific railroad tracks, near a stoplight that frequently catches motorists zipping to and from the Kennedy Expressway.

“We wanted it to be uplifting,” said Cyd Smillie, the arts liaison for ArtsAlive45. “We didn’t want it to be depressing. We wanted it to have the right amount of dignity and respect.”

Flisk’s daughter Peg spoke at the mural’s dedication. Family members of fallen officers painted in their loved one’s name and star number with a silver paint pen, as bagpipes played and Boy Scouts presented the American flag.

“I could do nothing but cry,” said Nora Flisk, who lives in Beverly on the South Side. “It is such a touching tribute to my husband’s memory, and all of the officers.”

In addition to the names and star numbers of officers who died on the job, the mural depicts a widow weeping, and inside her red teardrop is a portrait of Flisk. Next to the widow, an officer appears to turn to dust and disappear.

Smillie helped design the mural with Jill Arena, a graphic designer and the wife Ald. John Arena (45th).

ArtsAlive45 raised nearly $4,000 to paint the mural, with donations from the Fraternal Order of Police, the Gale Street Inn and several other businesses, Smillie said. A landscaping company donated bushes and planters to frame the mural.

Volunteers, including local children and members of the Flisk family, painted much of the mural, Smillie said.

The most emotionally moving part of the mural, Adamczyk said, is a blank space left for future names.

“It would be nice if that part of the mural just stayed blank,” he said.