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Tuskegee Airmen mural to be dedicated Sunday

DETAILS, DETAILS — Artist Ruston Baker adds detail earlier this month to his Tuskegee Airmen mural, which features Steubenville brothers Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards and eight planes. The work of art is set to be dedicated during a special ceremony Sunday on Washington Street. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The newest addition to the City of Murals, “Tuskegee Airmen ­– The Red Tails,” will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday at the mural site on Washington between Fourth and Fifth streets.

The mural depicts Steubenville’s own Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards, who served in the famous African American combat group during World War II.

Jerome Edwards lost his life on a training mission in 1943, but his brother John “Ellis” was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after singlehandedly shooting down two German Messerschmitts on May 1, 1945. He also earned Air Medals with Oak Leaf Clusters and, as part of the 332nd Fighter Group, a Presidential Unit citation for the combat skills of its pilots. John “Ellis,” who died in 1979, went on to fly multiple combat missions in an F86 Sabre Jet during the Korean War.

“This is a part of everyone’s history,” explained Jerry Barilla, who initiated the project as part of the Steubenville Visitor Center. “But it is especially significant for our African American community who are rightfully proud of these heroes.”

Retired school principal Patricia Fletcher headed the committee overseeing the project, while Jim Baber of Eastern Gateway Community College was tasked with fundraising.

“We want our young people to see these men as role models, to understand that they can go far when they aim for excellence,” Fletcher noted.

Fletcher recruited Melinda Young, superintendent of the Steubenville City Schools, to be a member of the committee to ensure that the mural is not only a tourist attraction and a fine example of art but is an educational opportunity. Steubenville High School’s band will be at the dedication, and Catholic Central High School students will lead the pledge at the opening ceremony.

Speaking at the dedication will be relatives of the brothers including niece Deborah Keith, who has made it her mission to have the Tuskegee Airmen recognized locally and nationally. Keith has given presentations around the country and at the Steubenville City Schools.

“We invite everyone to join us on this special day,” Barilla added.

Other members of the committee include artist Ruston Baker; Judy Bratten, Mary Snyder and Paul Zuros of Historic Fort Steuben and the Visitor Center; Mike Paprocki; the Rev. Calvin McLoyd; the Rev. Vaughan Foster; Patricia Easterling; Janet Sharpe; Gerald “Yonk” DiLoreto; and Ambrose Bolling.

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