1.800.720.8574 308.697.3493 sjonson@swnebr.net LITURGICAL ART
1.800.720.8574308.697.3493sjonson@swnebr.net LITURGICAL ART 

New sculptor will help finish 20th Century Veterans Memorial

When the final military commemorative statue is installed in November, Nebraska's 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte will be complete.


That will mark the end of nine years of work.


A $60,000 fund drive was conducted during the last three months, generating enough money to finish the $2 million memorial.


The memorial will get a boost soon, when a larger-than-life bronze statue replicating National Guard Sgt. Tricia Jameson is installed April 12.


Jameson died in 2005 in Iraq.


Another statue will be up by the end of the summer and the last two will be finished by Veterans Day.


"We've got a significant amount of money in the treasury," board president Don Craig said. "Most of it is committed, but we have a little extra."


Craig and other board members plan an audio system to inform visitors as they walk through the memorial. Sound can be transmitted via cell phone, Craig said. The audio system will be in place by fall or early 2008.


"I've been hoping we'd get it done before half of us are dead," said Jim Beckius, the vice-president of the board. "We've been at this quite a while."


Beckius is over 80. Craig is 93. Sculptor Ted Long died a month ago at age 75.


Long left behind a legacy of work including one complete but unerected bronze of the female medical soldier Jameson, which will be erected next week.


Long also sculpted a miniature of a U.S. Marine Corps soldier. His son Pat, an artist and art teacher in Elko, Nev., will finish the Marine bronze.


Sondra Jonson of Cambridge will sculpt the other two bronzes.


Jonson created the "Breaking News" bronze at the KRVN radio building in Lexington, and "Rachel Weeping for Her Children" an interpretation of the biblical text Jeremiah 31:15-17, stands outside the St. Germanus Church on Highways 6 & 34 in Arapahoe.


Other Jonson bronzes are in Washington D.C., including three pieces in the White House. She is currently finishing work on the head of President George Bush, Sr. for his presidential library in College Park, Texas.


Jonson took top honors in 1996 at the Governor's Art Show during Nebraskaland Day's in North Platte, with "Big Brother Little Sister."


"All three of my uncles were in World War II, so I'm really pleased to do a sculpture that honors our armed forces," Jonson said. One of Jonson's uncles was a Marine pilot, which makes her work on the Air Force bronze for the memorial more meaningful.


During WWII, the U.S. Air Force had not yet been established as an independent branch of the service.

Beckius and Craig are not talking of more features near the memorial. Beckius wants another statue of a civilian.

"I'm going to work my fanny off for a bronze of a North Platte Canteen worker, standing beside the Canteen marble," he said.


Craig wants a Visitor's Center built beside the memorial, to give travelers a place to lounge and learn about other sights such as Buffalo Bill's Ranch or the Golden Spike.

When Craig visualizes the visitor's center, he thinks in terms of another $1 million.


"It needs to be absolutely a very nice place, fully carpeted with great pictures," he said.


Jonson was hired so the project could be finished this year, Craig said. Pat Long was the sentimental favorite to finish the bronze work, but Craig said Long wouldhave been hard pressed to finish in the same time.


Jonson is excited about the opportunity. She happened to have a break in her schedule.


She is nearly finished with Bush and has other projects lined up, but they aren't scheduled until later in the year.

"I will have a team working with me," she said. "The foundry is lined up. It's going to be a push, but the timing happened to work out."

By George Lauby
The North Platte Bulletin
April 2007

George H.W. Bush by Sondra Jonson

Rachel Weeping for Her Children stands outside the St. Germanus Church in Arapahoe, NE.

Big Brother Little Sister, Governor's Art Show 1996.

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