After working for only a few short weeks, several artists transformed a busy street corner and gave tribute to a person who was called a selfless champion of others in need, especially veterans who may have fallen on hard times.
On Monday, the family of Len Totora came to give their official stamp of approval to the work spearheaded by Erich Preis, a good friend and admirer of Len's who spearheaded the project and painted Len walking alone in a parade and another with a color guard and crowd behind him,Preis was joined by Lori Guglielmino , who lives just a couple doors away from the corner and who painted the Huntington Lighthouse on the west side of the building. Another artist, JaneSpalholz, a presidential portraitist, painted George Washington who addressed Huntington residents on that very corner after the Revolutionary War.
Spalholz said she chose to paint George Washington—and his horse—because Len not only loved the first president he died this year on Feb. 22, Washington's birthday.Guglielmino pointed out that Washington spoke on the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue in 1790.
She, in turn, painted the lighthouse because it's a Huntington landmark. "Erich had a photo of it and just thought it would look nice on the wall. I live next door and I said, 'I'd like to do that painting," she said.
Len's widow Louise said she was in awe Monday looking at the mural as was Totora's best friend of 50 years Michael Macchiarella. "He was my best friend. We were both born in Huntington and we both went in to business at the same time. On his day off from work, he'd come on television repair calls with me and on my day off, I'd go in to the dark room with him. He was the most honest guy I ever met and he never changed for anyone. Bag lady, homeless man, he'd treat them all the same as he'd treat anyone. He wasaamazing," Macchiarella said.
Tbe artists gathered with the family and other loved ones in front of the mural for one big group portrait, and Len appeared larger than life behind them.
Now that the murals are almost completely done, Preis said that there are some finishing touches the community could help with.
"It would be great to have bushes and flowers and shrubs around here," he said. "Len needs some landscaping."