One of the more memorable moments from the COVID-19 pandemic was the passing of Grand Prairie teachers and husband/wife Paul and Rose Mary Blackwell in December from the deadly virus.
The couple, who had been married, made national news as they died just minutes apart, holding each other’s hands and the hands of their children.
Now, they are commemorated forever through the work of Fort Worth artist Juan Velazquez, who painted a mural of them for all to see. His creation can be seen at 1702 Small St. in Grand Prairie.
“I was asked to be part of this project by friends of Mary. I did not know them, but I’m also a teacher and I wanted to be part of this project,” Velazquez said.
Rose Mary was a second-grade bilingual teacher and was the longest tenured teacher at the Travis World Language Academy, having worked their 20 years. Paul was a physical education teacher and football coach at Fannin Middle School for the past five years.
Prior to their passing, the couple spent two weeks in intensive care and several days on ventilators at Harris Methodist Hospital. They leave behind four children and 20 grandchildren.
“This an amazing feeling to know my parents had that big of an impact on the community,” said their son, Shawn Tyler Blackwell of the mural. “I know them as mom and dad, but they were so much than that to many students throughout the years, and even better friends to their coworkers. It is truly an inspirational feeling to know people thought that highly of my mother and father.”
‘The Blackwells Were A Vital Part Of GPISD Family’
Grand Prairie Superintendent Linda Ellis said, “The Blackwells were a vital part of the GPISD family. I think it’s appropriate that Rose Mary and Paul have been honored with a mural in our community. Their images will stand as a testament not only to their dedication and influence, but also to the impact of great teachers everywhere.”
The 32-year-old Velazquez is not new to tribute/memorial murals. He previously painted two of Vanessa Guillen in Fort Worth. She was a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier who was murdered on April 22, 2020 inside a Fort Hood armory by another enlisted soldier, Aaron David Robinson.
“I think in the time that we live in, people are looking for hope and love, people want to be part of something, and they came together to make this happen,” Velazquez said. “We can see that people feel isolated due to social distancing. Murals bring people together.”
This is the latest of several murals Velazquez has painted in Grand Prairie.
“Grand Prairie is becoming a second home to me. This is my fifth mural in Grand Prairie, and everyone there is super nice to me,” he said.
This mural, he continued, is special because he hopes it will serve as a reminder to all during the battle against COVID.
“I hope so, I don’t think we can forget all that has happened during this pandemic. But in the time of fear and unknown we can bring a little love and hope,” he said. “A group of people that are not related to the couple came together to do something unselfish. What else is that but love?”