A New Chapter in the Gold Star Boys Mural: The rest of the story

Gold Star Boys Route 66

Follow the rest of the story of the Gold Star Boys mural.

The Gold Star Boys mural was painted right after 9/11/2001. It pictures the faces of six young men from the Cuba Area who fought in WWII and did not return to their families. The families received the Gold Star Medal that was given to families who lost a relative to war.  The mural was well received and makes quite a presence on Filmore Street on Route 66 in Cuba.

What we thought…

But then we found out that there was more to the story. In the red part of the mural the names of the six young men are inscribed along with the location where they died during the war. Ralph Fishwick lost his life in the line of duty on a return convoy off the coast of Africa on December 2, 1942. We thought. Read on for the rest of the story.

What was revealed…

Ralph Fishwick was born in Cuba in 1912  and on his father’s side of the family was a member of one of the early families of Cuba that was involved in mercantile and banking. On his mother’s side of the family, he was related to the Bishs. In 1930, after he graduated from Cuba High School, he wanted to join the Navy. He was told that his eyes were bad and turned down. He was told to do eye exercises if he wanted to try again. After faithfully doing the exercises, he was accepted and began his first tour of duty. Shortly after that, his eyes worsened, and he started wearing glasses.

There was more to the story of Ralph Fishwick's death.

Ralph Fishwick did not die off the coast of Africa as originally reported to his family.

In the Navy he received training to become an electrician. After his tour of duty, he returned to Cuba. When World War II broke out, Fishwick reenlisted.  When his convoy went down off the coast of Africa, his family was notified that he lost his life on December 2,1942. When Viva Cuba researched the mural and found an early VFW publication, this story along with a photo was used in the designing of the mural.  But that was not the end of the story.

About 20 years ago, Mr. Fishwick’s niece Carol contacted the Defense Department after discovering that certain papers about his death had been declassified. What his niece found out, was quite different from what the family had been led to believe.

Mr. Fishwick had died when his small boat was hit by a mine or perhaps even hit by a German submarine off the East coast of the United States. As a matter of national security, the United States government didn’t want anyone to know that an enemy submarine could be that close to an American coast. So the story was changed when the families were notified.

Ralph Fishwick’s body along with 14 others was discovered on May 8, 1943. At that time, the real location was given. The cold waters of the Atlantic had kept their bodies perfectly preserved. He was brought back and buried in Kinder Cemetery alongside many members of the Fishwick and Bish families.

The article below was in the 1943 Cuba Review:

The Cuba Review reported that the body of Ralph Fishwick was returned to his family.

The Cuba Review reported that the body of Ralph Fishwick was returned to his family.

The Cuba Review also reported the full military funeral  given to Mr. Fishwick.

Ralph Fishwick was given a  military funeral in 1943.

Ralph Fishwick was given a military funeral in 1943.

We remember…

Because Mr. Fishwick died while he was in the service, he is known as a Gold Star Boy. A Gold Star pin was given to his mother, showing that she had lost a son.  It was worn with pride but also with a sense of loss and sadness. When the mural featuring Fishwick was painted, his brother Bob felt pride that his brother was included in the remembrance.

So the next time, that you are in the area of the mural on Filmore St., stop and pay tribute to all Cuba’s brave young men who are pictured in the mural. You will also find their names with a star by them etched on the Veterans Memorial on N. Smith Street in the Recklein Commons area.

And that’s the rest of the story.

For more info on the Gold Star Boys mural:



Route 66 and the Gold Star Boys mural

The Gold Star mural is just off Route 66 in Cuba, MO.

Ralph Fishwick sacrificed his life for his country.

Ralph Fishwick spent two tours of service in defense of his country.

Ralph Fishwick gravestone

Ralph Fishwick’s gravestone rests is in the Kinder Cemetery on the west end of Cuba, Missouri

A version of this story was printed in a Cuba Free Press article.




Gold Star Boy Mural Salutes Cuba’s Veterans…

Viva Cuba's Gold Star Medal Mural Cuba MO

Viva Cuba's Gold Star Mural depicts sacrifices made during WW II.

The Gold Star Mural just off Route 66 in Cuba was painted just after 9/11 although it had been planned for months. With its tribute to the young men from the Cuba area who had lost their lives during WWII, it seemed an apt expression of the feeling of patriotism that swept the country at the time.

The train in the mural is  The Blue Bonnet. During W.W. II the Blue Bonnet, a Frisco train named after the Texas state flower, was a familiar sight with its distinctive blue and white cars.  It was this #7 train that whisked away Cuba’s service men as they left their homes to protect America’s way of life and values.  These young men sometimes gave their lives to keep the light of freedom burning.

Cuba’s Gold Star boys who gave their lives during WW II were the following:  Ralph Burnell Fishwick-Navy; Preston A. (Bud) Gibson Jr.-Army; Lawrence E. Grant-Navy; Dale K. Hudson-Navy; Rex Hilliard Powell-Naval Reserve; and Floyd Cecil Vaughn-9th Air Corps. Their names on listed on the red background on the north end of the mural. Their names can also be found on the Cuba Veterans Memorial on Smith Street.

According to a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor at the time the mural was painted, Wilbur Vaughn remembed his family taking his brother Cecil to this train during World War II.  He then went home, sat on the porch, and heard the whistle of the Blue Bonnet as it left.  He remembered how sad it sounded. His brother Cecil Vaughn is one of the young men who did not return from the war.

You might wonder why these men who died in the service of their country were called “Gold Star Boys.” With Public Law 534, the 89th Congress directed the design and distribution of a lapel button–known as the Gold Star Lapel button–to identify widows, parents, and next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United who lost their lives during hostilities.  The pin is depicted on the north end of the mural.

Gold Star Medal

The medal and names of the Veterans who sacrificed on are displayed on the mrual.

The pin, which is issued by the Department of Defense, is gold and is on a purple background for combat death and all gold for death while in service.  When one of the service men was killed in combat, his relatives received this gold pin. Servicemen’s mothers often wore the medal to show that they had lost a son.  It was a badge not only of sadness for loss but also one of pride because their sons had sacrificed for their country.

On this Veterans Day, Viva Cuba would like to remember these young men and all the young men and women who have served their country both in time of peace and in time of war.

For more information on the Gold Star Mothers’ organization, visit goldstarmoms.com.

The Artists…

Michelle Loughery, of Canada, who painted the A.J. Barnett mural, along with her assistant Sara Lindsay, returned to Cuba for this mural.  Local artist Shelly Smith Steiger assisted on tthe mural. Steiger now teachers high school art at Cuba High School.

Canadian artist Michelle Loughery update #2…

Artist Michelle Loughery

Michelle Loughery's murals of celebrities have brought her into contact with many Country & Western stars.

In May, we published, “Mural artist update for Canadian artist Michelle Loughery.” Loughery is the Canadian artist who helped Viva Cuba begin the Cuba, MO mural project.

Michelle Loughery’s latest commission in Vernon, Canada is pictured in this article. A look at this mural will show a similarity in style to some of Cuba, Mo’s murals.

When  Loughery was in Cuba, she called her style heritage murals, for they included the history, individuals, and culture  of the area where she was painting.

Loughery painted the A.J. Barnett mural in Cuba, assisted by local artist Shelly Smith Steiger, and the Gold Star Boys mural in Cuba, again assisted by Steiger. Oversized characters in her murals are a trademark.

Since her work in Cuba, Loughery has continued her work in the international arena.

A.J. Barnett Mural Cuba MO Loughery artist

Michelle Loughery helped make Cuba's first mural a reality. It was a commission of People Bank to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

Mural artist update for Canadian artist Michelle Loughery…

Michelle Loughery and her adopted daughter work on a heritage mural.

Michelle Loughery (R) and her adopted daughter work on heritage murals.

This entry is part of the 2010 mural artist update series…

Cuba, MO: Viva Cuba was very lucky in its choice of an artist for the first mural in 2001. Cuba artist Shelly Smith Steiger guided the choice while seeking information about outdoor murals. She initiated an Internet correspondence with Canadian Michelle Loughery, an experienced mural artist from Vernon, British Columbia.

The correspondence resulted in Loughery and her teenage daughter traveling to Cuba in 2001 to paint Viva Cuba’s first mural the A.J. Barnett/Model T mural to commemorate Peoples Banks’ 100th Anniversary. Later, she returned to Cuba, accompanied by artist Sarah Lindsay, to paint the Gold Star Boys mural. Steiger apprenticed under Loughery while these murals were painted and is now an outdoor mural artist herself.

Loughery has since been commissioned by the City of New York to paint a commemorative mural for 9/11, and the photographic display is now part of a collection in the Smithsonian Museum.  Loughery calls her murals Heritage Murals because they express the history and culture of the communities where they are located. During her career, she has painted more than 80 murals.

Besides being a world-renowned muralist, Loughery founded the Youth Mural Project where she works with at-risk youth on painting projects. Under her tutorship and guidance, these youth create not only murals but also new lives. Loughery mentors the young people as to life and job skills and encourages them to see art as a sustainable business and a economic tool. Loughery’s young crews have gone on to not only careers in art but also in other professions as well.

Loughery’s mural projects have connected a network of murals across Canada to create new opportunities for tourism in some of Canada’s small towns. In 2008, she created the Loughery Mural Artworks Foundation, a non-for-profit organization using the Wayfinder Project to paint murals in communities in Canada and around the world using at-risk youth from ages 15-29.

Michelle Loughery on the scaffold with one of her oversized heritage figures.

Michelle Loughery on the scaffold with one of her oversized heritage figures in Merritt “The Country Western Capital of Canada.”

One of Loughery’s most exciting projects has been her involvement since 2004 in the Merritt Walk of Stars Society. She and the city of Merritt partnered to create a tourism draw of over sixty larger-than-life murals of Country and Western stars to make Merritt the Country Music Capital of Canada. The country artists are ones who have performed at the Merritt Mountain Life Festival. In the process Loughery has met the stars and legends of Country Western Music as well as helped change the lives of the youth who have worked with her.

Loughery(R) poses with with Country Western duo Sugarland.

Loughery(R) poses with with Country Western duo Sugarland.

Loughery and the Merritt Project was featured in a documentary Shadows on the Wall about the project and how it involves youth in the community’s project.

Viva Cuba feels fortunate to have had Michelle Loughery as part of its own heritage of murals.

Cash, Parton and Haggard are a trio of Loughery paintings.

Cash, Parton and Haggard are a trio of Loughery paintings.

Michelle Loughery and Dierks Bently strike a pose.

Michelle Loughery and Dierks Bentley strike a pose.

Cuba, MO mural artist teaches a new generation…

Another in a series of Viva Cuba’s mural artist updates for 2010…

Artist Michelle “Shelly” Smith Steiger’s life has come full circle in many ways.  A hometown girl, she graduated from Cuba High School in 1986 when Camille Ogden was her art teacher. Now, she holds the position that Camille Ogden held as the CHS art teacher. In between those years, study, a career in art, and raising a family intervened,

Camille 2002jpg

Steiger attended Mineral Area College with an emphasis on commercial art, and the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, where she majored in Art Education. After graduation, she specialized in residential art commissions in Arkansas and Missouri. She also married and had two daughters. Steiger then moved with her husband and daughters back to Cuba.

In 2001, she began talks with Jim and Jill Barnett about an outdoor mural to commemorate Peoples Bank’s 100th anniversary. In her research on outdoor murals, she ran across the work of Michelle Loughery of British Columbia, Canada and struck up an Internet correspondence with the Canadian artist. This would be the beginning of a  new direction for her career.

In 2001, Michelle Loughery came to Cuba with her teenaged daughter to paint the Model T/A.J. Barnett mural.  Steiger assisted and began to learn painting of outdoor murals.

Smith would go on to complete the Apple/Barrel mural on her own. When she was finished, she didn’t like the faces of the people in the mural, so she re-painted all of them, showing the progress of her technique.

Steiger used care on the mural faces.

Steiger used care on the mural faces..

Michelle Loughery returned to Cuba with an assistant Sara Lindsay to paint the Gold Star Boys mural, and Steiger once again assisted and continued her informal apprenticeship

Steiger was the premier artist who worked on the Amelia Earhart mural. Another local artist Julie Balogh Brand assisted her, thus Steiger became the teacher instead of the student.

Steiger and Balogh Brand also partnered on the Millworks/Robert Judson mural. South St. Louis artist Julie Nixon Krovicka painted the figure of her father Francis Nixon in the mural.

Steiger and Balogh Brand worked together on the River mural, which depicted a vintage river scene. Steiger has worked on six of Viva Cuba’s murals, more than any other artist.

Stieger worked on five of Viva Cuba's 12 outdoor murals.

Stieger worked on six of Viva Cuba’s 12 outdoor murals.

After Steiger’s daughters were in school, she decided to apply for a teaching position at Cuba High School, her alma mater. Today, she focuses on her students’ work and progress during the school year.  She is mentoring and instructing a new generation of artists and creatives, including her daughter Kate who is interested in fashion design.

Today, students look to Steiger for mentoring and instruction.

Today, students look to Steiger for mentoring and instruction.

Last summer, Steiger supervised  extensive mural maintenance for Viva Cuba.  In the past, she has created some outstanding pieces for Viva Cuba’s Chair-i-table Auction, which is held in May on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

Steiger does maintenance work on Amelia Earhart mural during the summer.

Steiger does maintenance work on Amelia Earhart mural during the summer.

Currently, she is discussing a historical mural with a local business so there may be a new Steiger mural in the future.

Steiger is a valued resource to Viva Cuba, and she has touched the community with her teaching and artistic depictions of Cuba’s history.

This Steiger work hangs in her classroom as an example for student projects.

This Steiger work hangs in her classroom as an example for student projects.

Steiger's students' work hangs outside her classroom.

Steiger’s students’ work hangs outside her classroom.

To see all the murals that Steiger worked on, visit the Viva Cuba homepage.

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