At Mariner Middle School, the first image seen by students, staff and visitors is a patriotic mural painted by artist and Mariner custodian Dan Kimmel.
Kimmel said he spent about 25 hours before and after his regular work shifts to complete the painting of an eagle clutching a crest that depicts a Viking, Cape’s mascot. American flags flare out from either side of the crest, and a banner inscribed “The Mariner MS” rests underneath it.
Assistant Principal Emily Lehne said hall duty staff needed a flag to salute during the Pledge of Allegiance in the school’s front lobby. Since Kimmel had already painted a sign outside the nurse’s office, school officials turned to him for help.
“He came up with the whole concept,” Lehne said. “He wanted to do more than just a flag, so he brought his ideas to us and we were like, ‘wow!’”
Kimmel joked that he painted a small, light-blue star under the banner to placate Principal Fred Best, a Dallas Cowboys fan. Ever since he was a kid, he said, he drew with colored pencil or pen, and he never tried painting until his dad came home with buckets of paint.
“The thought was I could paint motorcycle helmets or fuel tanks,” he said. “Instead, I painted a mural in my room of flowering cherry trees and a Geisha girl.”
Once friends got wind of his talent, Kimmel said, he started painting nursery room murals of underwater scenes of stingrays and sharks or Dr. Suess characters. He said he found wall textures much easier to paint on than canvas.
“I’ve given away more painting and murals than I’ve made money,” he laughed.
That included donating his time and paint to create a mural in a room at the Ronald McDonald House in Wilmington, he said.
“My son stayed at duPont for a year so I did it to help them out,” he said. “We lived there, and they did a ton for us. My son was born at 26 weeks. He was trached and on life support for three years. He’s fine now; he’s in first grade and at [Milton Elementary summer program] FAME right now.”
Lehne said before school ended in June, students would sneak a peak at Kimmel’s work-in-progress. In September, students and staff will finally be able to salute the finished work while reciting the pledge. She said school officials are already discussing ways Kimmel can beautify the school’s outside sheds with murals focusing on colleges and careers.
“Any chance I get to paint a mural, I take it,” Kimmel said.