Vigilceremony scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14

Published on Thu, Oct 12, 2006 by ack Kintner

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Vigil ceremony scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14

By Jack Kintner

In unveiling a bronze sculpture that is already being called the centerpiece of downtown Blaine, a combination of city officials and directors from the sponsoring Pacific Arts Association will dedicate the Vigil statue this coming Saturday, October 14, with a street fair, speeches, presentations, recognitions and a surprise ending.

The 850-pound statue, a little less than six feet high, was installed on Wednesday of this week after being trucked up from the Bronze Works foundry in Tacoma. Once lowered into place on its ton and a half concrete pedestal, it was immediately covered awaiting its first public showing sometime after festivities begin at the H Street boardwalk plaza at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The $175,000 sculpture has taken well over a year to produce but has already received 93 percent of its funding. Sources include a combination of $15,000 from the city’s Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC), the balance being corporate and private donations and many donated professional services, including those of the sculptor, Blaine resident Bob McDermott, who donated virtually all of his work in creating the memorial.

He’s best known in the area for having created the Dirty Dan Harris sculpture in Fairhaven, a miniature (or “maquette”) of which now is on display at the Whatcom Education Credit Union next to Cost Cutter grocery.

A member of the National Sculpture Society, he has over 100 other works on display in Colorado, California, and in private homes and galleries all over the country.

The concept of this sculpture originated with McDermott several years ago when he could find no fishing memorials that depicted the families left behind to work and wait for husbands, brothers and sons to return, nor did any of the memorials he found include women.

In these days before radio, when families lost men at sea they found out from other fishermen or by simply by not having their loved ones return, so people waiting on shore, keeping a vigil, was a common sight.

The Vigil shows three generations represented by a young boy of 11, a woman in her 30s and another in her 50s. “They’re representative of the generations of Blaine’s mostly Icelandic fishing community, but are not necessarily related,” said McDermott, “although recently I had someone ask me if this concept had anything to do with my own family, and I realized that it sure does.”

McDermott said that as a boy in St. Petersburg, Florida, he grew up with his mother and her mother and often visited the beach. “I even had a little dog,” he laughed, “but this is not a picture of my family.”

McDermott said that the figures represent typical members of fishing families “after the turn of the 20th century up until the building of the Peace Arch, an era when fishing was a key economic base for the community.”

Several people who remember those days from their childhood have been invited as honored guests, including Len Breidford, Bert and Thelma Isakson, Rod and Juanita DeMent and Norma Wolten Kruse, who at 99 will be the oldest local pioneer in attendance.

The models for the sculpture have Scandinavian roots. Jan Westman Hrutfiord, whom McDermott met at a meeting of the local Blaine Icelandic Heritage Society, is the daughter of well-known local fisherman Eythor Westman and modeled both women.

McDermott met Andrew Dahl, who has Swedish heritage and modeled the young boy at the SummerAire art show in 2004.
Harmonys, a small dog belonging to Barbara and the late Blaine Mayor Dieter Schugt, modeled the dog the young boy is holding. “Originally I had the boy pointing out to sea, or holding a toy sailboat,” said McDermott, “but this way the people are looking at each other and sharing a moment of anticipation.”

The project was given life when the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) agreed to organize fundraising. The project had already been endorsed by both the city council and its Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC) but no funding or sponsorship was granted until the PAA took it on at a meeting held at Bob Boule’s Smuggler’s Inn.

Blaine city councilman Bruce Wolf agreed to head up the committee. “Not one person in the year or so that this has taken has objected to this project,” he said, “and in fact it’s been quite touching the way that it’s been adopted by the community already.”

Peace Portal Drive between G and Martin Street and H Street from Peace Portal Drive to the alley, will close to vehicles between 1 and 4 p.m. for the ceremony.