By Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Tex (Reuters) - In the movies, Bonnie and Clyde are heroes.
To Texas artist Mary Simon, the Depression-era gangsters were the criminals who murdered two highway patrolmen on Easter Sunday 1934.
Simon, the wife of a law enforcement officer who lives not far from the Dallas-area spot where the troopers were killed, wanted to paint a tribute to the victims.
"It hit home with me when I saw how close they were and how tragic it is," said Simon, whose husband, Sam Simon, works for the FBI. "I think people forget that and look more at the glamorization of Bonnie and Clyde."
On Thursday in Austin, Simon presented a watercolor painting to the Texas Department of Public Safety in honor of highway patrolmen Edward Bryan Wheeler and H.D. Murphy, who were killed by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
"It is touching and encouraging to know that there are still people out there who honor and value the sacrifices made by our officers," said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange. "This painting is a tangible example of that respect and caring."
The painting shows one of the winding pathways leading to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. The pathway is lined by statues of a lion watching over cubs, a symbol of law enforcement officers' protective role. Under the painting, also in the frame, Simon included a rubbing of Wheeler and Murphy's names from the memorial.
"It's really something to know that people actually care," Cecelia Trevathan, whose 96-year-old mother, Ella Wheeler McLeod, is Wheeler's only surviving sibling, said in a phone interview from San Antonio. "My mom idolized him. He was always there to protect her."
On that Easter Sunday 77 years ago, Wheeler and Murphy stopped their motorcycles near Parker and Barrow's car, thinking they needed help, according to the Department of Public Safety. They approached the car and were shot.
At the time of Wheeler and Murphy's deaths, law enforcement officials were actively pursuing Parker and Barrow. The couple, whose story fascinated the nation, darted around the country, committing crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to stealing cars and robbing banks and gas stations, according to the FBI.
After a high-profile hunt, law enforcement officers ambushed Parker and Barrow in Louisiana, shooting them to death on May 23, 1934.
This year on April 1, the anniversary of Wheeler and Murphy's deaths, the Department of Public Safety honored Wheeler by giving his sister, McLeod, a "Yellow Rose of Texas" award. Trevathan said that her mother has been devastated since the death of her brother, who once went to her school to warn her classmates not to mess with her.
"I think about him every day," McLeod said at the April 1 ceremony, according to the Houston Chronicle. "He was always good to me. He was my guardian angel."
(Editing by Greg McCune)