Visitors to McLeod County Veterans Memorial Park this Memorial Day weekend will notice a new addition to its growing list of accompaniments: a bronze statue honoring service members.
The new monument, which depicts a World War II soldier, was installed this past week after two years of planning and sculpting.
The statue was commissioned and donated by Keith and Lisa Kamrath of Hutchinson, and sculpted by their son, Jon, a 2006 Hutchinson High School graduate.
Jon studied bronze sculpture at Gustavus Adolphus College and graduated with an art degree in 2010. He spent a year working for a studio that produced memorials for police, fire and military.
“After that, I didn’t do anything with sculpture until this came into my life almost two years ago,” he said.
According to Jon, he and his parents wanted to donate the statue out of “a deep respect for those who have served and are currently serving in the armed forces.”
“For me, I think that stems from the fact both my grandfathers served in World War II, and my mom actually served in the Air Force,” Jon said. “So growing up, I heard stories about that, and my grandpa Ray (Kamrath) … was especially proud of his time spent in the army and the soldiers he fought alongside. So we see this as just a small way to honor all veterans for their sacrifice, their bravery and commitment they’ve made to defend this nation and the freedoms we value here.”
Before Jon could begin working on the statue, however, they had to go through the proper channels to make sure it could be donated to the city, and that the veterans who serve on the park board approved.
“Everybody liked the idea,” said Dave Skoog, a local veteran and member of the park board. “It’s a tribute to soldiers from all wars, even though it is a Word War II statue. It was another way to pay tribute to soldiers and airmen and navy people. It’s a tribute to everyone.”
After a year of speaking to and receiving approval from the park board; the Hutchinson Parks, Recreation and Community Education Department; the Public Arts Commission and City Council, the Kamraths received the go-ahead to move forward with the statue. After figuring out details such as where Jon would sculpt the statue (he doesn’t have a working metal studio), the artistic work began.
While it is a memorial to all soldiers who have served in all conflicts, artists must draw inspiration from somewhere, and for Kamrath it was his grandfather Ray. Jon said it was important to him that the sculpture be authentic, so he researched everything from WWII uniforms and equipment to even the typical stature and height of men from the 1940s. He even used some of his grandfather’s original equipment to guide his work.
“I wanted this to be about as accurate as if we had captured the soldier in bronze at the time,” Kamrath said.
Even details such as the soldier’s stance were given thoughtful consideration.
“We discussed a number of things. Whether it should be at attention or saluting or in some sort of action, but in the end decided to go with a more candid stance," Jon said. "Not a posed position at all, but more of a relaxed, authentic, realistic stance, but also with that … alert and ready to fight. Looking for any sign of danger.”
When the sculpting was done, the statue was completed by Casting Creations in Howard Lake. Minnesota Twins fans may be familiar with the foundry’s work as it also cast the large gold glove outside Target Field.
As the statue was being prepared for its unveiling to the public this weekend, Jon said he was pleased with the monument, but most of all hopes veterans and visitors to the park will enjoy it.
“I’m hoping it brings pride to veterans, to have this in their park and be proud of that memorial,” he said. “I’m pleased I was able to have the opportunity to create this sculpture, and I think it’s cool that it’s in my hometown and to have a piece that will remain here, at least for the foreseeable future.”