homepage logo

Just trying to be neighborly

By Staff | Sep 20, 2020

Blue Earth artist Aaron Johnson, far right, shows his neighbor, Bill Klein, the finished mural. The Iwo jima flag raising scene will be set up in Klein’s side yard personal veterans memorial area.

Aaron Johnson says he was just being neighborly. But his neighbor says it was way beyond just doing some nice little thing for a neighbor.

Johnson and his wife, Patricia, moved from Salem, Oregon, to Blue Earth about a year and a half ago.

In fact, it was on April 1, 2019. They moved to be closer to his family who live in Britt, Iowa.

You may recall a story in the Faribault County Register last March 29 in the Home Improvement section about the Johnsons’ remodeling the house they bought on West Seventh Street.

But, this story involves one of their neighbors down the street.

“I was a prison guard and retired,” Johnson says. “But I had a hobby all my life, and it was painting and painting with oils.”

In fact, Johnson has done all kinds of paintings, many of which hang in his home. He has also done several murals, on the sides of buildings.

“One is in Britt, Iowa,” he says. “It is a painting of a hobo holding a can of beans with a locomotive in the background. Britt has Hobo Days in the summer.”

One of Johnson’s neighbors, Bill Klein, learned of Johnson’s artistic abilities and wondered if Johnson could paint a mural for him, to place in his yard.

Klein has built his own personal veteran’s memorial on an empty lot on the corner of Seventh and Linton streets, next to his home on Linton.

“He talked to me about doing the flag raising on Iwo Jima and had a photo of it,” Johnson says. “Patricia also looked up the photo and the history of it.”

Johnson got to work on it, secretly, in his back garage. He did not allow Klein to see it or know how it was coming along.

“I painted it on a four by eight sheet of plywood,” Johnson says. “I probably have 65 to 70 hours work on it.”

Last Monday morning, it was the grand unveiling. The Johnsons invited Klein and his wife over and opened the garage door to give Klein a look.

Both men choked up with emotion.

“Just look at that,” Klein said. “Isn’t that something? It’s beautiful.”

Then Klein asked for the bill, and Johnson told him there was no bill. It was a gift.

That brought more emotion and tears and being too choked up to speak.

The plan now is to place the mural by a flag pole in the side yard along with all the other remembrances of veterans who have served this country. This one will be specifically for those who served in World War II, but Klein has another plan to salute those who served in Vietnam.

After a few coats of protective spray, the new mural will be ready to get put into its new place of honor.

“I put a little bit of extra effort into painting this scene, because I wanted Bill to really like it,” Johnson says. “From his reaction, I think it was worth it.”

It just was the neighborly thing to do, he adds.