In the spring of COVID-19, memories mean a lot more because so many already have been lost.
Small wonder, then, that Tom Pettoello has become the most popular spray-can artist in the West.
One high school football field at a time, Pettoello is creating memories that will last a lifetime for the class of 2020.
Monday found him at Ferris High School, where the football field came to life like some gigantic yearbook page. The school logo, in red and white (or scarlet and silver, perhaps), appeared above hundreds of names of graduating seniors in foot-high white lettering.
The work is harder than it looks. By one o’clock, Pettoello and assistant Carol McQuaid had toiled for five hours and consumed 40 cans of spray paint, yet weren’t even halfway done.
Stooping for every letter, every name, Pettoello admits to getting a bit cranky at the end of the day.
But after going through about 700 spray cans at seven high schools, Pettoello has learned one thing.
“Every name has a story,” said Pottoello, an art teacher at Rogers High School.
Even as Pettoello toiled on his massive canvas, the students trickled through. They talked about what’s gone missing this spring because of the coronavirus and the closure of school buildings.
This spring, there are no proms, no track meets and no yearbook signings in the hallways. The point was reinforced when a Ferris baseball player – a senior who’ll never get to play again – dropped by in uniform.
On the parking lot above the field, Principal Ken Schutz looked on with mixed feelings.
“These seniors have lost a lot,” said Schutz, who last month supervised the distribution of yard signs to all 450 Ferris seniors.
That was a nice gesture, all agreed. But after hearing about the magic Pettoello created on the football fields at Rogers, West Valley and five other schools, the parents at Ferris wanted the same treatment.
“Our parents and myself saw the idea, and they ran with it,” said Schutz, who planned to spread the news by phone Monday night.
Meanwhile, Pettoello and McQuaid will take a few days off before heading to distant fields in Wenatchee, Cashmere and even California.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Pettoello said. “And this is great for all the kids, especially the ones who don’t get a lot of attention.”
“That just makes it even more special,” said Pettoello, who finished the Ferris project Monday night.
How right he was: Soon after he and McQuaid left, families visited the field, posed for photos and shared a few memories – the kind that won’t be forgotten.
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