- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The new mural on the side of the Willoughby Inn Seafood Restaurant was to be a surprise for the longtime owners.

But Mary Lou and Bobby Lebby are at the restaurant every day.

Malka Granados of DL & RL Properties said the couple complied with her request not to peek. And a tarp kept the mural out of sight most of the time.

Mary Lou Lebby admitted that she saw a little of the work in progress a few times when she pulled into the parking lot. Mostly though, she didn’t know what the wall would look like when it was finished.

“They wanted it to be a secret, so I just stayed away,” she said.

On Oct. 5, after months of waiting, the Lebbys had their first chance to look at the mural. It was then that they discovered their restaurant was one of several Ocean View landmarks featured in the work.

“I had no idea,” Mary Lou Lebby said. “It was a very good surprise.”

Granados said she wanted to put their contribution to Ocean View on the wall.

In James Nelson Johnson’s mural, it’s a busy day along the Chesapeake Bay:

The restaurant’s parking lot is full, and there are patrons standing outside. Nearby, two people are working on a boat on the beach, and several others are in the water, especially around Harrison’s Fishing Pier. Further out in the bay, there is a Coast Guard sailboat and a Navy aircraft carrier. Overhead, the sky is buzzing with birds, planes and helicopters. There are several sailboats along Sarah Constant Beach Park, where beachgoers pass the time on the sand. Cars and trucks motor along Ocean View Avenue, which leads to Ocean View Amusement Park.

The amusement park closed in the late 1970s. Harrison’s Fishing Pier was destroyed in Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

Johnson, of Virginia Beach, has worked since June to paint the mural. With the help of his daughter Gillian Noel Johnson, he re-created scenes he photographed when he lived in Ocean View in the 1970s.

Look closely at the mural and you’ll see nearly all of the boats have their names inscribed on the side.

“You really have to study it, you know?” Mary Lou Lebby said.

The mural unveiling also included a photo slideshow of the Lebbys and their four decades running the Willoughby Inn.

As images of relatives and old customers flashed on screen, the Lebbys would recite their names. Occasionally, Mary Lou Lebby would wave or blow a kiss at the screen. She said later that she’s been fortunate to meet so many wonderful people.

“It’s been my life for 42 years,” she said.

“I love this place with my whole heart and soul.”

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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