Mural in Mt. Laurel school library to honor mother’s memory

Sitting high above the library at Larchmont Elementary School is a half-finished work of art, a mural stretching 12 feet wide and featuring a palette full of colors.

The painting, when finished, will depict a bear, sound asleep in his room, with the moon shining through the window.

Students at Larchmont may recognize this simply as a scene from the book “Good Night Moon.” But for faculty members and parents, the mural will stand as a memorial for a dear member of their community.

A mother of three children in Mt. Laurel, Michelle Friedman was a very involved and beloved parent for many years at Larchmont. When she lost her battle with cancer earlier in 2013, PTO president Barb Angelucci asked the school’s principal Sean Sweeney and art teacher Diane Canzanese about doing something to remember her.

“I had been wanting to do a mural for a while here, so we decided to do that,” Canzanese said. “We started it soon after the school year started.”

Friedman was part of a group of moms who started a book club. This made the library a perfect place for the mural.

Sitting high above the tall windows, the mural resembles the children’s book “Good Night Moon.” However, Canzanese wanted to make the painting unique to the school, such as adding the school’s mascot, a bear.

“The book lent itself to being in the library,” Canzanese said. “We’re sort of, what the principal called it, Larchmonting it up. We changed a lot of things in the picture and added things about school.”

Canzanese sketched the entire mural in pencil. She has painted it when she has time, but faculty members, parents and even members of the book club that Friedman participated in have done much of the painting.

Early in the project, the book club went to Larchmont to work on the mural. Canzanese said the night ended up being one to remember for everyone there.

“Some were sitting around the table reminiscing and some were up and taking turns going up,” she said. “A lot of the people at our school still had connections to Michelle and the family because her kids were sort of spread apart.”

As people have time, Canzanese said they come in and continue to work on the painting, bit by bit. The work is about halfway finished.

According to Canzanese, it is a slower process than usual since the height makes the painting more difficult and because work can’t be done while children are using the library during school hours.

Still, the painting has become the perfect way to honor a mother who has been so involved in the community. Everyone from current parents to ones who have not been at the school for many years have returned to take a turn painting.

“Some staff members want to work awhile after school,” Canzanese said. “Mr. Friedman and the three kids want to spend some time, too.”