The infamous image of a beautiful young woman in a royal blue evening gown with the black and white Thin Blue Line flag is how most of the country remembers slain police officer Natalie Corona, who was shot and killed in the line of duty almost two years ago.
But in Arbuckle, where Natalie grew up, a new image has taken center stage.
A larger-than-life mural, painted by Los Angeles artist Shane Grammer, captures the essence of the 22-year-old in happier times, surrounded by her beloved sunflowers, her face beaming with a smile, and a sparklingly glint reflecting from her coffee colored brown eyes.
Her family said Friday, when the mural was dedicated, that Grammer’s artistry, which was inspired by a photograph taken by a friend, is how those in this small community – who knew and loved Natalie – should remember her.
“This happened to be our girl’s favorite picture,” said Lupe Corona, Natalie’s mother. “Obviously, she is known for the blue dress and thin blue line picture, but outside of law enforcement, this is the picture that expresses who Natalie was. That twinkle in her eyes and that smile were the two characteristics of her.”
Grammer, whose most well known work in Northern California includes the haunting murals that grace charred remains of the 2018 Camp Fire, used spray paint to capture Natalie’s image on the south wall of Arbuckle’s Ace Hardware Store.
As with the Paradise Fire, which killed 86 people near Grammer’s hometown of Chico, remembering the tragedy of Natalie’s death as he worked was an emotional experience for the 48-year-old former graffiti artist. But for Grammer, the joy felt by families when they see the finished product, and the response he gets from communities touched by tragedy, is what drives him to give peace and a sense of healing to those who have experienced devastating losses.
“I feel like God has called me to use the gift he has given me to bring hope and joy to people who are downcast and brokenhearted,” Grammer said.
Margarie Martinez, the Geyer family, and staff at Alsco Geyer/Ace Hardware initiated the project, and hosted a reception for Grammar on Friday, which included a barbecue and dedication of the mural.
“We couldn’t be more happier, more thankful, or more honored that Margarie put this together, although there were others that had input,” said Supervisor Merced Corona, Natalie’s father. “We’re just honored and humbled that you would think of Natalie, still, and do something of this magnitude for her, for our family, and for the community.”
Although the artist captured Natalie at the most vibrant time in her of life, the mural’s rich colors are in sharp contrast to its backdrop: the black and white version of an American flag with a thin blue line, which reflects the often painful realities of law enforcement.
Natalie was killed Jan. 10, 2019, when a Davis man shot her multiple times as she investigated a traffic accident before killing himself. She was one of 147 law enforcement officers in the United States killed in the line of duty that year, and 224 (38 killed by gunfire) that have been killed while on duty so far in 2020.
The mural includes Natalie’s End of Watch date and time, along with her badge number.♣