If you’ve visited Urban Leaf and Bean Caf in Riverside the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed Frank Pierson sitting on the floor dabbing away with a paintbrush at the front counter.
Pierson, 24, is painting a mural on the front of the counter, something he pitched to the business’ owners the day after they opened in May.
“It was just wood. It needed something,” he said.
Since May 21, he’s been at it painstakingly brushing in the mountain of coffee beans that serves as the mural’s central motif.
“I’m rethinking that one now,” he said last week, looking at two more panels of the mural that remained unfinished. “You have to lie on the floor and use the littlest brush you can.”
Pierson has been friends with one of the business owners, Christina Presto, since they were classmates at Morton West High School in Berwyn.
“They’ve been best friends for years,” said Christina’s mother, Valerie, who hand-blends the teas for the store.
After the two graduated from high school in 2006, Pierson joined the U.S. Army. In late 2007, he was sent to Baghdad, Iraq as part of the 10th Mountain Division, where his job included transporting prisoners.
One of the other things people no doubt notice about Pierson is that he’s missing the lower half of both legs. He lost them when a roadside bomb blew apart his Humvee, the first in a convoy of three vehicles on a mission. According to Pierson, the bombing happened during one of his first missions there.
Pierson gets around via wheelchair and prosthetic limbs now and is accompanied by his service dog, a black lab/golden retriever mix named Leo, who’s content to lie quietly and unobtrusively off to the side until needed.
While he was never much of an artist before, Pierson has turned to painting of late. In addition to the mural at Urban Leaf and Bean, he and his wife are also painting one of the giant mushrooms the Town of Cicero will be using on Cermak Road during the annual Houby Day celebration in October. The 3-foot-tall houby will feature a military theme, he said.