AJ Davis’ Mural at the Veterans Memorial Circle

Veteran Memorial Circle Mural
Artist: AJ Davis
CRE8IV 2023

In honor of veterans and active military serving our nation in the Armed Forces.
Located on the wall of the Rockford Billiard Cafe, address: 1436 N Main St, Rockford, IL 61103.

Source: Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Rockford Public Art Trail.” Website Accessed 8/3/2023. https://www.gorockford.com/things-to-do/public-art-trail/

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ROCKFORD — A new mural at North Main and Auburn streets brings a colorful addition to an intersection dedicated to military veterans.

The public artwork covers the north-facing wall of Rockford Billiard Cafe, 1436 N. Main St., and features an abstract version of the American flag that ties together imagery of an F-35 fighter jet, three blooming poppies and a nondescript military member saluting in uniform.

The salute is given in the direction of Veterans Memorial Circle and the Greenwood Cemetery, the city’s oldest and largest cemetery where more than 500 veterans serving in everything from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and both World Wars are buried.

“This mural not only serves to beautify this roundabout, it also helps to foster an important identity for the Veterans Memorial Circle,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli said. “This mural creates a lasting message that we support our veterans in Winnebago County and we remember the sacrifices of those who served who are no longer with us, many whom are buried nearby in Greenwood Cemetery.”

Chiarelli made those remarks Thursday during a ceremony officially dedicating the mural to local veterans. The dedication included a moment of silence, singing of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” and a flag-raising ceremony honoring America’s five military branches. The mural was completed earlier this summer.

 AJ Davis painted this mural in summer 2023 at Veterans Memorial Circle at 1436 N. Main St. in Rockford. It is part of a new Rockford Public Art Trail. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

The mural was painted by Denver, Colorado-based artist AJ Davis and paid for by sponsorship from Collins Aerospace, which makes two major systems for the F-35 fighter jet, and money Winnebago County Board member Angie Goral dedicated to the project from federal American Rescue Plan. It is one of 44 murals the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has curated since 2019 through its CRE8IV: transformational art initiative.

“Poppies symbolize the memory of lost soldiers and are an offering to both remember and celebrate those lost lives,” Davis said in a statement. “The soldier was referenced from a variation of 25 AI-generated faces, prompted to utilize facial features from every race to cultivate an authentic approach to creating a figure that was focused on inclusivity.”

The camouflage and the cap of the military member on the mural are intentionally nondescript to represent all branches of the armed forces.

 Artist AJ Davis stands in front of his mural in June 2023 at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Veterans Memorial Circle is the name for the roundabout at Auburn and Main streets that stands as a tribute to veterans. It is maintained by a group of volunteers who keep it colorful from spring through fall by planting, watering and maintaining several flower beds.

A commemorative flag was installed at the site to accompany the mural and pay homage to the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Dozens of veterans attended the ceremony, and visitors bureau CEO John Groh said this mural is one more way to honor them for their service and sacrifice.

“This project stands as a testament to our collective appreciation for their bravery and dedication to our nation,” he said.

 Marine Corps. veteran Stanley “Curly” Thompson salutes during the National Anthem on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at a ceremony to dedicate a new mural near Veterans Memorial Circle and North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

 Jessica Gunn, sergeant first class in the Illinois Army National Guard, salutes during the National Anthem on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, during a dedication ceremony of a new mural paying tribute to veterans at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
 AJ Davis paints a mural on June 19, 2023, at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
 A mural by AJ Davis is seen June 21, 2023, at North Main and Auburn streets in Rockford. The mural pays tribute to local veterans. (Photo by Ryan Davis Photography/Provided by Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at  or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

Local Group Cleans Up Graves Belonging to Veterans

Source: Reamer, Elisa. “Local Group Cleans Up Graves Belonging to Veterans.” WIFR.com. Published on June 24, 2023. Accessed June 27, 2023.

https://www.wifr.com/2023/06/25/local-group-cleans-up-graves-belonging-veterans/

Local Historical Figure: Private Albert Cashier, Contemporary Scholars to Think of this Civil War Veteran as a Transgender Man

Source: “Albert Cashier aka Jennie Hodgers.” American Battlefield Trust. Website Accessed on June 23, 2023. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/albert-cashier

Boulder Monument for Ulysses S. Grant’s Visit to Rockford in 1880

Boulder Monument for Ulysses S. Grant’s Visit to Rockford in 1880

Enjoy these newspaper articles gathered on the boulder commemorating Ulysses S. Grant’s 1880 visit to Rockford.

The boulder bearing a bronze plate was dedicated on September 16, 1929 at Fair Grounds Park.

Current location: As of May 12, 2023, the Rockford Park District stated the boulder is currently at the Talcott-Page Park Maintenance Shop secured behind a fence.  Rockford Park District staff said it was removed from Fair Grounds Park after “some kids rolled it down the hill.”

Source: The Rockford Register-Gazette, Sep 14, 1929,  page 6.

Source: The Rockford Morning Star, Sep 17, 1929, page 1.

Source: The Rockford Morning Star, Sep 17, 1929, page 1 and continued on page 2.

Source: The Rockford Register-Gazette, Sep 17, 1929,  page 7.

Source: Sunday Register Star, “Rockford’s Hidden History,” July 2 1995, page 17.

Source: Sunday Register Star, “Rockford’s Hidden History,” July 2 1995, page 17.

WREX-TV Call Letters Honor WWII Hero, Rex Caster, 1953

Bronze Dedication for WREX-TV Call Letters to commemorate the loss of Rex Caster, the son of WREX-TV President, Lou (L.E.) Caster.

These images were attained by donation at RPL’s Community Scan Day event on December 17, 2022.

The following article provides more historical information:

 

Veterans Who Have Passed–Roger Wilson Newell

Source:  Rockford Register Star, June 12, 2022.

Veterans Who Have Passed–Kenneth H. Johnson

Source:  Rockford Register Star, June 12, 2022.

Veterans Who Have Passed–Joshua Aaron Hurliman

Source:  Rockford Register Star, June 5, 2022.