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Revitalize 62966 dedicates five historical portraits to the city of Murphysboro

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

MURPHYSBORO — After opening ceremonies for the Murphysboro Apple Festival, Mayor Will Stephens dedicated five new portraits of important people to the city. The art is part of the Revitalize 62966 Art Committee’s mission to add public art to the city.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens (right) introduces Murphysboro High School students (from left) Olivia Cook, Anika Cook, Lucille Kjelleberg, and Ari Rebman, who painted the portraits of noted people in the history of Murphysboro as part of a Revitalize 62966 project that was dedicated on Wednesday at the Daum Building in Murphysboro. “We are celebrating the work of Revitalize 62966 tonight. I really thank them for their work,” Stephens said, adding that they are also responsible for murals in the community.

The portraits are located on the south and east sides of the Daum Building and were painted by art students at Murphysboro High School. The portraits are of Rudolph Zerses Gill, Stephen Bostick, Kay Bozarth, Robert Mohlenbrock, and Cyrus Thomas.

Gill, whose portrait is on the south wall, was an architect and builder. He is responsible for many Murphysboro buildings and landmarks, including Murphysboro Elks Lodge (now Murphysboro Events Center), the Barth and Walker Building, the VanCloostere Building, and the shell and baseball stadium at Riverside Park.

Dr. Robert Mohlenbrock poses with his portrait that was dedicated on Wednesday as part of a Revitalize 62966 project in Murphysboro. The east wall has four portraits. The first is Bostick, who was a slave in Arkansas. After the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he enlisted in the Union Navy. He moved to Southern Illinois to join relatives in creating the Bostick community near Murphysboro. He helped establish the Murphysboro Grand Army of the Republic Post 128 in 1890.

Kay Bozarth played a part in starting many events and programs in Murphysboro. She started the Apple Festival Scholarship Tea, was the founder of John A. Logan Museum and Logan Breakfast, founded Table Scapes, which funded historical preservation and established the Murphysboro Reads Volunteer Program. She won many awards, including the Alpha Kappa Society Award for Literacy, Gen. John A. Logan Founder Award, and Murphysboro Distinguished Alumni.

Robert Mohlenbrock has always been fascinated with the flora of Southern Illinois. He graduated from Murphysboro High School, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SIU, and received a Ph.D. from Washington University. He spent 33 years as a professor, department chair, and curator at SIU and has written 60 books. He was instrumental in establishing protected natural areas in Southern Illinois, including Heron Pond and Black Slough Nature Preserve.

Cyrus Thomas was an ethnologist studying different people and their relationships and an entomologist studying insects. His fields of interest led him to study law, entomology, climatology, and archaeology. He is unofficially known as the father of American archaeology. He founded the Illinois Natural History Society, and his work helped support the creation of Yellowstone National Park.

Dr. Mohlenbrock was at the dedication with his family.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Mohlenbrock said.

Although he always loved plants, he said his science teacher at Murphysboro High School really got him interested in plants as a career.

At nearly 91 years old, Mohlenbrock is still working. He is writing two books, one with his son Trent.

Each week, he and Trent drive down country roads studying plants. Mohlenbrock said he has found about a dozen plants new to Illinois in the past few months.

“Murphysboro is a good little town. I love it,” Mohlenbrock said.

Murphysboro High School art students Ari Rebman, Lucille Kjellberg, Anika Cook, and Olivia Cook also attended the dedication.

“This was an honor to do,” Lucille said. “Knowing it’s going to be here is awesome.”

Shirley Krienert of Revitalize 62966 Art Committee said another five or six portraits would be painted.

More information is available at

Marilyn Halstead | Southern Illinoisan | September 15, 2022


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