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April 20, 2010

Town to honor famous cartoonist who lived, worked in Amesbury

AMESBURY — Three decades ago, cartoonist and radio personality Al Capp drew his colorful L'il Abner cartoon strip characters from a studio space overlooking Amesbury's Market Square.

Now thanks to a handful of locals, his characters will soon be re-emerging on the downtown scene. A new mural honoring Capp's life and work has just been completed, crafted by artist Jon Mooers, who transformed the sides of two downtown Amesbury buildings with historic memorials to John Greenleaf Whittier and Amesbury 's Carriagetowne past.

Though the contents of the four-panel piece will remain a secret until an unveiling ceremony on May 15, it is believed many of Capp's most memorable characters are depicted in the new life-size mural, which is laid out in comic strip style, with Capp's life story retold via text bubbles throughout.

The mural will grace the archway in Market Square, which opens up to the Upper Millyard amphitheater and is the site of acoustic concerts and sidewalk entertainment shows.

Chamber of Commerce director Stefanie McCowan said the mural was painted under the watchful eye of Capp's daughter, Julie Cairol, who grew up in the family's homestead on Whitehall Road just over the Amesbury line in South Hampton and still lives there today.

"Because we're having the Amesbury First festival on May 15, we decided that would be the perfect day for the unveiling of the mural," McCowan said. "The whole thing is a cartoon, but the bubbles tell of his story. Nobody's really seen the final-final except for Jon Mooers and Julie."

The mural is being underwritten by Jay Gould of Gould Insurance and Flatbread Pizza Co., whose office building is adjacent to Capp's old downtown space and is part of a larger effort of some townspeople to mark the spot where Capp spent so much of his time.

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