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Three new statues grace Waukegan library courtyard


BY DAN MORAN  November 8, 2012 7:22PM

WAUKEGAN — The statues stolen from the Waukegan Public Library courtyard and sold as scrap last spring couldn’t be replaced for one practical reason: They weren’t in stock.

“There was no longer a mold for either one of them,” said library spokeswoman Elizabeth Stearns, referring to “Little Scholar” and “Imagine That,” the two bronze sculptures that were pried from their stone bases one night during the last week of May.

But visitors to the library this week are seeing the results of an alternate plan: One completely new statue and two bronze benches that were purchased with a mix of insurance money and funds from the Chicago company that inadvertently accepted and melted down the ill-fated sculptures.

“Frog Prince Reading Book,” which depicts a larger-than-life amphibian sharing a story with two smaller versions at his webbed feet, was installed Tuesday in the Stimson Sculpture Garden on the library’s east side. Nearby are the two different benches featuring sculpted characters — “Maxey and Me,” portraying a boy reading to his dog, and “Best Friends,” with a boy and a girl reading together.

All three were purchased from The Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, N.Y. Stearns said that both benches were paid for with insurance funds that covered the $15,000 cost of the two stolen sculptures, minus a $1,000 deductible.

They will also feature dedication plaques from the same families that purchased the originals for display in 2000, with “Maxey and Me” sponsored by Steffi and Elmer Stone in honor of their sons and grandchildren, and “Best Friends” sponsored by the family of former librarian Elvera Lake.

As for the “Frog Prince,” Stearns said half of its $4,240 cost was provided by the owner of JB Metals, the West Side company where the thieves received $268 for “Little Scholar” and “Imagine That.”

Following the arrest of a local man for the thefts in early June, Waukegan police reported that the items were accepted as scrap by an employee who failed to recognize them as stolen property, and the owner wanted to make amends.

“He had come to us right after it happened, and in good faith said he wanted to help,” Stearns said Thursday. “The reason it took so long was we had to find statues that would fit what the donors wanted.”

While the new pieces were set quietly in place this week, Stearns said a dedication ceremony will likely be held in the spring, most likely on the first Friday in June at the start of the library’s annual Summer Courtyard Concert Series. In the meantime, library officials are seeking donations to cover the remaining cost of the “Frog Prince.”

“Our courtyard sculptures really add to the beauty of downtown,” library executive director Richard Lee said. “It is a shame that two of them will no longer be enjoyed by our patrons and concert-goers. However, I am grateful that we were able to contact the original donors and find replacements that captured the intent of their original donation.”