Monroe business mural made from nostalgia

Whitfield's Auto Licensing painting captures family history

Kelly Sullivan

Chuck Whitfield said the mural now on display at his family's Monroe business is the product of a bout of nostalgia.

The 17-foot-long, roughly 7-foot-high painting covers the wall from floor to ceiling behind the counter at Whitfield's Auto Licensing. The artwork depicts a familiar scene from the area's history. Whitfield's grandfather, Lawrence Whitfield Sr., stands on a felled tree with two other men in front of Mt. Index and a massive Siler Logging Company gas-powered shovel — the first in the Northwest.

Local artist David Hose was commissioned to create the piece. It took about seven weeks to finalize the concept, which is an amalgamation of two historic family photographs, Whitfield said. One image was taken by renowned regional logging photographer Darius Kinsey.

“We wanted to show the roots of our family back into logging,” Whitfield said.

The generations of Whitfield men and women provide an outline of the industry’s prevalence during the different eras in Monroe's history. Hose said he has completed a handful of murals that capture those scenes from Snohomish throughout the Sky Valley. He said he is always pursuing opportunities to recreate the area's past.

“Yes indeed, they are history or they are depicting history. I have the freedom to really put my heart into it — I put my heart into doing them,” Hose said. “It is important to recognize a historical town and the accomplishments of the people that have lived and died in this area. It just has more substance for me than, let's say, doing a mural of fictitious characters doing abstract things.”

Larry Whitfield, who still manages the business with his son, said his family moved to the area in 1933. His father had worked in the logging industry since he was 14 years old.

“I came to very much appreciate his (Whitfield's) grandfather, Lawrence Whitfield, and just the hard working history of this area,” Hose said. “Particularly the logging industry...the loggers were rough and tumble guys. Quite a few of them had a few injuries in their lives, and there were those who didn't survive logging — they had fatal accidents sometimes.”

After logging, Lawrence Sr. became a funeral home director at Purdy and Whitfield Funeral Home, which is now Purdy and Kerr with Dawson Funeral Home, Larry said. When Lawrence Sr. and Marion married, the matriarch insisted Larry's father “had to get out of the woods.”

However, he still made regular trips into the wilderness. For almost 40 years, Larry said he and his mother and his brothers were fed with nearly the 1,000 pounds in moose meat Lawrence Sr. would bring back from his annual trip to British Columbia.

One of Lawrence Sr.'s kills, Pete the moose, is still around. The animal was bagged in 1948, the same year Lawrence Sr. started in the real estate industry. The stuffed head is mounted on the wall next to the mural. Larry recalls retiring the taxidermy at one point, but the moose was fixed up and brought back out.

“We've always had Pete the moose,” Whitfield said smiling.

Lawrence Sr. also worked in the insurance industry, then licensing, Whitfield said. His son and grandson both became partners in the family businesses. Over the years the different generations have acquired about 20 different agencies in the area. Lawrence Sr. came into the office until his mid-90s, he said.

The generations have also been active in local politics and community service. Lawrence Sr. was a member of the local Kiwanis Club of Monroe for 60 years, Larry was a member of the local Monroe Lions Club for about 40 years, and Whitfield was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Monroe. Lawrence Sr. served on the Monroe City Council for many years, Larry was a longtime member of the Monroe School Board and Whitfield was on a member of Future Farmers of America for four years.

“So we've been right in the middle of everything,” Larry said.

Whitfield said he and his father and grandfather saw so much of the community's transformation over the years. Larry raised his family on a 40-acre cattle farm, a lifestyle that has become less common in the area. Many new families moving in aren't aware of Monroe's diverse history. The mural will help preserve that information, and make connections between the family's many generations, he said.

Although many people have already seen the mural, the official unveiling will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at Whitfield's Licensing, Whitfield said. Mayor Geoffrey Thomas will cut the ribbon. Photographs from the Monroe Historical Society will also be on display, he said.

As Whitfield explained the history of the new mural, he would occasionally pick up a stack of old, laminated photos and flip through them. He wrapped up the narrative with a brief remark.

“So, I got nostalgic and had a mural (made),” Whitfield said. 

Photos by Kelly Sullivan: Whitfield's Auto Licensing partners Larry, left, and Chuck Whitfield stand in front of the mural they commissioned by local artist David Hose on Thursday, May 18, at the Monroe family business. Whitfield's Auto Licensing partner Chuck Whitfield holds up a photo of his grandfather, Lawrence Whitfield Sr., in front of the mural he commissioned by local artist David Hose that is now on display at the family business.


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