Only one cement pedestal stands empty now.
On Monday morning, sculptor Sondra Jonson watched as the fifth and sixth sculptures were set in place at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial. Representing the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard, the two join pieces created by North Platte artist Ted Long before his death.
“I came up last night, so I would be here bright and early,” the Cambridge artist said. “I kept waking up every hour, I am so excited.”
The Coast Guard sculpture was based on an actual member of the service, Jonson said. He stands overlooking Iron Horse Lake, binoculars held to his face. The hum of Interstate 80 traffic just beyond the memorial provides a sonorous background, as the United States flag and service flags snap in an autumn breeze.
By mid-afternoon Monday, the crane truck had long disappeared and the memorial was deserted. Silhouetted against a crisp November blue sky, the latest sculptures join those of a Vietnam-era infantry man, a World War II pilot, and a female medic, all completed by Long before his death. At the time of his death, Long was working on the fourth sculpture, that of a Korean War-era Marine. Long’s son, Patrick, is completing the work and later this week it will take its place on the vacant pedestal.
The memorial committee commissioned Jonson after Long’s death. She completed the two pieces in seven months, so they would be installed by Veteran’s Day.
As the Coast Guardsman watches, “Fly Boy,” representing the U.S. Army Air Corps appears to be striding towards his B-17, ready to soar into the skies above France.
“It’s always a little deflating to see them leave my studio,” Jonson said. “Those pieces were my reason for living for the past seven months.”
Jonson had nothing but praise for the memorial committee.
“Those guys are amazing,” Jonson said. “They have been working on this project for nine years.”
Jonson will be back at the memorial for Veterans Day services Nov. 11. The young man who served as the model for “Fly Boy” will also be present.
“Right or wrong, it’s done,” Jonson said. “They are there for posterity now.”
Jonson is a native of Philadelphia, who moved to Cambridge in 1994.
Her art can be seen from the White House to the Vatican. Her piece, “Rachel Weeping for Her Children” was named Best in Show in 2004 by the American Mothers Association and has been on permanent display since 1999 at the Lady of Fatima Shrine at St. Germanus Catholic Church in Arapahoe.
“This project consumed my life for seven months,” Jonson said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this. I may be coming up on Veterans Day a little early and taking out a cloth and polishing them up a little.”
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