WELLSBURG - Another key piece is in place at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park, with the arrival Friday of a 7-foot-tall cast bronze statue paying tribute to the many local men and women who have served their country over the years.
Created by Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz and weighing hundreds of pounds, the piece was delivered by train and truck from Ontario to Wellsburg.
Stored temporarily at Eagle Manufacturing on Wednesday, it was lowered onto its concrete pedestal at the center of the park on Friday morning by crews with Dan Hukill Contracting of Wellsburg using a crane owned by Bowers Contracting of Wintersville.
A GOOD FIT — Crews with Dan Hukill Contracting of Wellsburg on Friday lowered a 7-foot tall cast bronze statue to the center of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park overlooking the paddle boat pond at Brooke Hills Park. The statue was created by Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz and delivered by train and truck from Ontario to Wellsburg this week. -- Warren Scott
Several volunteers with the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park were on hand to observe.
Among them was Howard Armstrong, the group's president, who said he was relieved the statue has been conveyed safely to its proper place, but he added there's still work to be done.
Local contractor Mark Van Horn is expected this weekend to begin laying 267 granite pavers between the statue and the granite wall that bears the names of 186 local veterans who died while serving their country in military conflicts and 27 who were prisoners of war.
A dedication for the park, which sits beside the paddle boat pond at Brooke Hills Park, will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 11.
Sam White, a retired Brooke High School art teacher who provided the sketch for the park's design, was among several taking photos of the statue's installation.
"I just think it's fantastic to be able to get a world-reknowned sculptor to be involved with something here in Wellsburg."
Schmalz' involvement was an unexpected surprise for the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation.
There had been plans for the park to feature a bronze statue of a soldier, standing and saluting before the wall.
While members of the foundation were reworking the park's design to reflect input from local veterans and meet cost limitations, Schmalz learned of the project through the Internet.
He had designed a statue of Jesus Christ for the Franciscan University of Steubenville so he was familiar with this area and e-mailed Armstrong, offering to create a statue for the park.
Armstrong learned Schmalz had designed various statues, many of them massive, for such sites as the Canadien Veterans Memorial in Ontario and the Mother Theresa Memorial in Calcutta, India.
"At first I ignored him because I didn't think we had the budget for him," Armstrong admitted.
But Schmalz insisted he could create a unique and impressive monument within the group's budget.
Noting Schmalz' promised to deliver something unique, Paul "Bud" Billiard, the group's publicity coordinator, said, "He was right. It is something like I've never seen before."
On one side the wings of an eagle frame a scene of a soldier accepting a reddish pink flower from a young girl, with many other service members behind him.
On the other side the wings of a dove frame a scene of tombstones representing military graves, an image of a peaceful European village behind them. A reddish pink flower has been placed at one of the graves.
Schmalz, who was interviewed by phone, said the eagle is appropriate because it represents for Americans valor and national pride, while the dove is known by many as a symbol of peace.
The scene with the young girl was inspired by the custom, during World War II, of people in European villages presenting flowers to troops that had liberated them from Nazi occupation.
Often the flowers were presented by a child, and he drew upon a magazine photo from that period of a barefoot girl in Italy carrying out that custom, Schmalz said.
"I thought how amazing that this little girl is giving this war-weary soldier a flower," he said.
He often sees his sculptures as stories, and he envisions the flower at the tombstone on the other side of the piece being left by the girl years later, now grown.
Both flowers were created by applying a reddish patina to the bronze, a rare instance of his using color to create an effect, Schmalz said.
Schmalz said it was important to him to incorporate the images of many service members.
"When you're dealing with subject matter as significant as the sacrifices of soldiers, a single soldier is not enough," he said.
The soldiers' faces were inspired by photos of about 25 local veterans who were killed in action.
Schmalz said limited space prevented him from creating exact likenesses from the photos but they served as inspiration as he sculpted the piece.
Some appear courageous, others weary. They wear the uniforms of various wars and eras and some have bandages on wounds they sustained in battle.
"As I'm working, I'm looking at this young soldier who was killed in Vietnam, for example," he said.
Schmalz said the concept of a statue with an eagle on one side and dove on the other came to him before he learned of the park. When he saw photos of the park's future site, "I thought this would be the perfect spot for such a story to be expressed."
Schmalz said he hopes the statue will help to convey to future generations the values and sacrifices of those who have served, including those who have given their lives.
"One thing that impresses me is how young many of them were. They were kids and what a burden they put on themselves and what responsibility they assumed," he said.
Asked if he plans to visit the park, Schmalz said he hopes to arrange an art exhibit at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in the next year or two and will stop to see it then.