Back On Guard

A week ago, a Warren County soldier returned to his post.

In 2004, the statue of the World War I Doughboy was taken out of Oakland Cemetery for restoration.

On May 7, a new statue, based on the original, resumed the post on the original base.

The original copper Doughboy was installed at the cemetery in 1925 by VFW Post 631.

Doughboy is a name given to WWI foot soldiers based on the fried flour they often ate.

The statue was taken down on the authorization of the Warren County Cemetery and Monument Restoration Committee. It was cleaned, the metal damage was neutralized, and, eventually, fully restored. The statue now stands just inside Fifth Avenue entrance to Warren County Courthouse.

It was the committee’s intention to have a replica statue made for the cemetery, according to Jim Zavinski, who was quoted in the Times Observer at the time.

The funding for the replacement did not materialize and the base of the statue stood vacant for years.

In 2011, Jim Highhouse and business partner Roger Davidson of Pleasant Oil and Gas, decided to take matter into their own hands.

The company has a contract with the cemetery to develop wells on the property and Highhouse was selected to join the cemetery board.

“Once in a while I’d get phone calls or people asking me where (the statue) is,” he said. “It got to be personal.”

According to Highhouse, there was only $212 in an account created for the statue. While far short of what was needed to create a new statue, those funds will be used to beautify and improve the statue and its surroundings, he said.

The company had had a good year, in part due to the wells at the cemetery, and the partners decided the work was up to them. “The only avenue that we had was to do it,” Highhouse said.

In April 2011, they met with representatives of ACI Composites of Lancaster, Pa., the company that had created the replica of Lady Liberty for the courthouse, to make the arrangements.

They hired artist Mike Hurrell, who measured and took many photographs of the original statue and began working on a replica.

“I sculpted a new Doughboy in the spirit of the original piece,” Hurrell said. “I added more details to the uniform. I was also able to add finer detail to the figure’s face and hands as well.”

From the mold, ACI created a Fiberglas resin statue that Hurrell then painted a bronze color.

“It’s good that it’s done,” Highhouse said.

He believes local family members of World War I veterans, some of whom were those who had asked him about the project, will be glad to have the statue back. “I’m sure that they’ll appreciate it,” he said.

Highhouse plans to handle the maintenance of the 138-pound Doughboy for years to come. “I have the instructions on how to treat it,” he said. The automotive finish Hurrell used to paint the statue means maintenance is much like waxing a car.

That he can perform the necessary upkeep on the statue doesn’t mean there is nothing left to be done. The cemetery does not have excess funding for special projects.

“There are other things in that VFW section that need done,” Highhouse said. “Volunteers, sponsors… that would be great.”

“As far as being able to put labor, time, and effort into it, we don’t have the money,” he said.

A dedication ceremony for the statue featuring guest speaker Jim Cheronis and the Sheffield VFW performing military honors, will be held at noon on Saturday, Armed Forces Day.