Keeping a soldier from fading; Park district aims to return war memorial to its former glory
December 26, 2001 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Meg Dedolph
Perched on a ladder, statue conservator Andrzej Dajnowski fished an old bird's nest out of the left arm of the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" statue in Burlington Square Park.
Dajnowski visited the park one afternoon earlier this month to photograph and examine the damaged statue, which is cracked and is missing parts, including the left hand that once held a rifle.
This evaluation was the first step toward restoring the damaged artwork, which was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1926 by the American Legion, said Sue Omanson, the Naperville Park District's corporate relations coordinator.
The engraved stone base dedicates the statue to the memory of World War I veterans, affectionately known as "doughboys."
When it comes to paying for the statue's restoration, the district may have some help, Omanson said.
"Century Walk expressed an interest in participating with us, because they may have this as part of their walk through town," she said.
Century Walk is Naperville's public art program and includes murals and statues spread through the downtown area.
Dee Pasternak, a member of the Century Walk board who watched Dajnowski examine the statue this week, said she hopes the statue will be included in the Century Walk program.
"I think he's fascinating," Pasternak said of the sculpted doughboy.
"Look at the detail on the heels of his shoes."
Pasternak, while researching the restoration of similar doughboy statues in Elgin and Wheaton, learned about the Save Outdoor Sculpture grant program.
Naperville has received $850 from the program, which is partly administered by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The evaluation is expected to cost $1,000. The Park District plans to pay the balance not covered by the grant, Omanson said.
"I really have a deep feeling about this," Pasternak said.
"I just feel so bad that he looks like this.
People in other areas are fixing up other statues."
The doughboy statue is one of more than 100 made between 1920 and 1940 by Indiana sculptor E.M. Viquesney that stand in communities nationwide.
"It's one of the most viewed public sculptures in this country, except (for) the Statue of Liberty," Omanson said.
"It's very democratic because it's the average soldier."
Dajnowski has another doughboy statue in his studio now.
That one belongs to the Chicago Park District and it's in worse shape than Naperville's, he said.
In restoring Naperville's statue, another hand and rifle must be fabricated, which is a tricky process.
"There are two ways (to do that)," Dajnowski said.
"One is to make it out of sheet copper.
The other is to cast part of another sculpture and put it on this sculpture.
That's a rather complicated process."
Copper sculptures like Viquesney's doughboy are hard to work with because they are made of thin sheets of metal, Dajnowski said.
The seams are joined with small interlocking tongues cut into the edges and then braised.
"It's very mechanical," said Dajnowski, director of the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio in Forest Park. During the restoration, the statue likely will be removed from its pedestal in the park.
The Park District expects to receive a report from Dajnowski on the statue sometime after the new year, Omanson said.
Andrzej Dajnowski, director of the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, inspects the copper doughboy statue in Naperville's Burlington Square Park. The Naperville Park District has received grant money toward refurbishing the World War I memorial, unveiled in 1926. More than 130 doughboy statues by artist E. M. Viquesney are in parks and town squares throughout the country.