Statue-esque; Military memorials stand guard.
The following correction was published in the TelegramTowns on Jan. 21, 2010:
An alert reader points out that the TelegramTowns article "Statue-esque: Military Memorials Stand Guard" on page 1 of the Jan. 14 issue misidentified one of Auburn's monuments.
The small photo on the right side of page 1 does not, in fact, show the Vietnam memorial at the corner of Route 12 and Church Street. The photo shows the Citizens of Auburn Remembered for Excellence monument, or C.A.R.E., which honors hundreds of local residents for their contributions to the town. The C.A.R.E. monument is directly across Church Street from the Vietnam War memorial.
The Vietnam memorial square, pictured here, was erected in honor of all Vietnam veterans and is named for U.S. Army Pfc. David P. Kusy, who was 20 when he became the first Auburn resident killed in that war.
We apologize for the error.
AUBURN - The soldiers stand in the snow, gazing off into the distance, armed and ready to offer aid or fight for their country.
Unlike other war memorials in town, which are stark stone monuments engraved with the names of fallen heroes, these lifelike statues of Army soldiers of different eras stand in parks along Veterans Memorial Corridor, bringing home the humanity of those who have served.
Robert L. Platukis, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Corridor Committee, said, "These statues are symbolic of all the hard work, blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice, the lost families and lost opportunities, the pain of all those who have served, wherever and whenever they served."
Three of the four bronze statues created by renowned sculptor Robert Shure stand in the parks. The fourth and final statue is expected to be erected soon.
Mr. Platukis said that each park honors those who served during a specific era, though the parks honor all who have served in the military.
At the junction of Route 12 and Route 20 are a statue of a woman soldier, her helmet in her arms, and a man, armed with a modern rifle. Both are dressed in Army uniforms worn during Desert Storm and today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Less than a half mile away, at the corner of Route 12 and Prospect Street, is the World War I memorial park, which features a single bronze soldier wearing the flat-brimmed helmet and high-waist uniform of his time.
The fourth soldier, from the World War II and Korean War eras, will stand near the gazebo at the corner of Water Street and Route 12.
The Vietnam memorial, at the corner of Church Street and Route 12, is dedicated to all Vietnam veterans and has a granite monument to Pfc. David P. Kusy, who was 20 when he became the first local soldier to die in the Vietnam War.
Mr. Platukis said he and fellow committee members would have loved to have a statue of a Vietnam-era soldier there, but could not afford it.
"We had no statues in Auburn. Not one. Now we have four to honor all who have served. These four areas were eyesores. Now they are beautiful parks to honor our veterans. I'm thrilled," Mr. Platukis said.
He said the statues cost $40,000 each. There has been some talk of starting a campaign to raise funds for a Vietnam-era statue.
Mr. Shure, the sculptor, said that he would be happy to make an additional statue, even though he gave the town a special rate for the four already done.
"It would be less than $40,000 for a Vietnam statue. This was a labor of love," he said.
Mr. Shure has great respect for all those who have served in the military, though he never had the opportunity.
"My grandfather was shot with a machine gun in World War I. My father was shot down in a glider over New Guinea in World War II. They both survived. I was drafted in the Vietnam War, but when I went in for my final physical, an eye problem kept me out," he said.
Several years later, he had major eye surgery, and then was "blessed to work with veterans on several memorials."
When the opportunity came to do Auburn's Veterans Memorial Corridor statues, Mr. Shure said he was particularly touched, since he has "strong ties" to Central and Western Massachusetts. He and his wife, artist Kathleen Shure, work together in Woburn. Their daughter, Lisa Benson, also an artist, lives in Northampton, and their son, Dan Shure, a musician, photographer and artist, lives in Holden and was married in Sturbridge.
For Auburn's statues, Mr. Shure found period uniforms, which he had friends and employees model "for reference, so I could get the folds and buttons right. But I invented the faces. I wanted them each to represent an American in the war in that era.
"I put my heart, soul and emotions into those statues. I'm one of the lucky ones. I do what I want to do. I wake up every morning and can't wait to get to work."
Mr. Shure, 61, originally from Brooklyn, received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University. He trained for more than a decade with his mentors, Italian sculptors Adio diBiccari and Arcangelo Cascieri of Boston, taking over their studio when they retired. Mr. Shure eventually moved his studio, Skylight Studios, to Woburn.
He has crafted the statue that is the centerpiece of the Massachusetts Korean War Memorial in the Charlestown Navy Yard; the George Washington Memorial statue at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.; and the giant teddy bear at the entrance to F.A.O. Schwarz. He also sculpted the plaque at the entrance to the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston; the bronze marathon runners at Copley Square Park; and two bronze sculptures at Boston's Irish Famine Memorial along the Freedom Trail at Washington and School streets.
In addition, he sculpted the Massachusetts Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the Statehouse and the Boston Police Officers Memorial at Boston Police Headquarters, and created the Strand Theatre Firefighters Memorial Monument in Brockton in memory of 13 firefighters killed in a building collapse there on March 10, 1941.
Many colleges have his works on display. His portrait relief of St. Ignatius can be seen at the College of the Holy Cross; his statue of Sigmund Freud stands at Clark University; his huge elephant-head sculpture with a 10-foot trunk tops the doorway of Dowling Hall at Tufts University; his 6-foot bronze leopard prowls at Wentworth Institute of Technology on Huntington Avenue in Boston; and his bronze-cast hockey player stands outside Kreitzberg Arena at Norwich University.
He said his most challenging work, technically, was the Pony Express Memorial, which stands 24 feet tall and is 30 feet wide in This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.
He is currently working on the restoration of the altar at St. John's Catholic Church on Temple Street in Worcester.
Now that this renowned artist's work is on display in Auburn, Mr. Platukis said it is time to let the world know.
Mr. Platukis said, "I want a `Veterans Memorial Corridor' sign on I-290 and on 395. Coming up 395 from Oxford, Auburn is mentioned only once on 12 signs. The Auburn Mall is not even mentioned. Now that we have these beautiful artworks and a very special place people will want to visit, it's time for Auburn to have its due."
PHOTOG: (1, 2, 4) T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG; (3) SUBMITTED PHOTO/Dan Shure
CUTLINE: (1) The statue at the corner of Route 12 and Prospect Street in Auburn is in World War I uniform. (2) The Vietnam memorial at the corner of Route 12 and Church Street. (3) Sculptor Robert Shure stands with the full-size clay model of one of his military statues at Skylight Studios in Woburn. (4) The statues of soldiers at Route 12 and Route 20 are depicted in Army uniforms of the present day.