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AMELIA RISES AGAIN AVIATOR'S STATUE CAST IN BRONZE, RETURNED TO PARK.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

NORTH HOLLYWOOD - In 1937, aeronautical pioneer Amelia Earhart vanished without a trace over the vast Pacific. On Tuesday, she was unveiled for the ages in bronze. Civic leaders and artists have cast a statue of what may be the best permanent likeness of the intrepid explorer who settled in the San Fernando Valley.

``Beautiful,'' declared Guy Weddington McCreary, president of the Amelia Earhart Bronzing Committee. ``It's the most dynamic statue of Amelia anywhere in the world - you can see her face, her determination and her vision.

``We can claim Amelia Earhart; the Valley can claim her as our hero.''

The 8-foot bronze statue of Earhart holding an airplane propeller was officially unveiled at North Hollywood Park, at Magnolia Boulevard and Tujunga Avenue, next to the Amelia Earhart Branch Library.

The $130,000 memorial - financed through private and public community redevelopment funds - replicates a crumbling fiberglass statue that had stood on the corner since 1971.

The world's most famous female pilot won her wings as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and the first person to fly from California to Hawaii in 1935. The recipient of other flying records was also the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

``She never gave up,'' said actress Beverly Garland, the honorary mayor of North Hollywood, at an outdoor ceremony attended by about 100 people. ``She was a woman who wrapped herself in courage.''

The Earhart ceremony coincided with a rededication of Van Nuys Airport honoring 75 years of aviation in the Valley and 100 years of powered flight. The event also commemorated a newly renovated public observation area with historic and educational exhibits.

Festivities included live period music, vintage and military flyovers, including a C-130 Hercules cargo plane and the unveiling of the airport's original 1928 dedication plaque.

``Today's event marks a significant moment in history as we celebrate Van Nuys' Airport's 75th Anniversary and the Centennial of flight,'' said Van Nuys Airport spokeswoman Stacy Gere.

The Earhart sculpture was paid for by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and private donations. Its renovation was supported by the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Jaycees, the San Fernando Valley Ninety-Nines and Zonta International.

Sandy Decker, whose Decker Studios in North Hollywood has cast Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson and Jack Benny for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters, said the new Earhart is a beaut.

Cast in 630 pounds of bronze from the original design by Ernie Shelton, she's darker, statelier and much more alluring.

``There's more of an invitation to come up and touch her,'' said Decker. ``She has more of the allure of the explorer-mystery woman looking for her next exploit - and I think that's what she symbolizes.''

For Valley residents - and especially women - Earhart remains an icon of strength, determination and character.

``She was our mentor,'' said Bertie Duffy, past chairman of the San Fernando Valley Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, which Earhart co-founded.

``She gave us the knowledge that we can do whatever we want to do, that we can honor our dreams.''

Earhart and her husband, publisher George Putnam, moved to Toluca Lake in the 1920s and lived in a Spanish colonial-style home on Valley Spring Lane. She flew out of Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale and what is today Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport.

In June 1937, Earhart set out in her twin-engine Lockheed Elektra to fly around the world. But in one of the great unsolved mysteries of flight, she and her navigator vanished on July 2 over the central Pacific.

Midge Sherwood was a 19-year-old journalism student when she interviewed Earhart in Columbia, Mo., just before she embarked on her fateful journey. The interview would propel her into an aviation journalism career that included becoming the first woman spokeswoman for a major airline.

Earhart, appearing in a plain suit with short curly hair and no makeup, was striking, handsome and poised - and in complete command of a room full of mostly male journalists, Sherwood recalled.

``I was in awe. Here I was a young teenager. To me, she was the greatest woman in the world,'' said Sherwood, a historian from San Marino. ``The interview will stay with me forever.

``She was inspiring - not just to me, but to many young women.''

Grace Farenbaugh, president of Zonta Club of Burbank Area, part of Zonta International, an advocacy group of women professionals of which Earhart was a member, agreed.

``Here's somebody who went beyond the norm of what women were supposed to do: She followed her heart and she's an inspiration still.''

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) The newly bronzed statue of Amelia Earhart clutching an airplane propeller was dedicated Tuesday during ceremonies at North Hollywood Park.

(2 -- 3) Francisco Gomez, left, shop foreman at Decker Studios in North Hollywood, examines the bronze Amelia Earhart head after sandblasting away ceramic casting material. Artist Ernest Shelton, right, repositions the hand of the original fiberglass sculpture at Decker Studios.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 17, 2003
Words:846
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