Battle Ground artist has worked over nine years on 9/11 monument

By Maecy Enger, Columbian Staff Reporter

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For more information or to donate, visit http://spiritofamericafoundation.com.

photoBattle Ground artist Jim Demetro created four statues in commemoration of 9/11. The clay sculptures represent, from left, a flight attendant, an airline pilot, an office worker and a firefighter, and will be cast in bronze beginning this month.

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Battle Ground sculptor Jim Demetro believes that although his latest work is not his largest, it is probably the most significant and meaningful to him.

He designed four figures to be added to a 9/11 monument that will likely be located in the Chehalis Veterans Memorial Museum. Constructing part of a monument for the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, Demetro says, involving work for nine years off-and-on, has given him a sense of closure.

“The last nine years, it’s (9/11) kinda been in my memory almost daily,” Demetro said.

Demetro became involved in the project when he was visiting a now-out-of-business foundry that cast his bronze sculptures. There he happened to meet John Jackson, a metalworker and owner of Jackson’s Field Welding Services in Lacey.

Jackson was inspired to create a 9/11 monument. He had created a memorial for the families who had lost relatives in the sinking of the Seattle-based fishing ship Pacific Alliance. Jackson had lost a cousin who was like a brother in that shipwreck and made the sculpture in hopes of bringing closure to those who had lost loved ones.

“After 9/11, I had this feeling a lot of families would not have closure, because many bodies were not found,” said Jackson.

He had designed a sculpture with figures holding hands in a circle, using actual beams from the twin towers in the center, and was looking for a sculptor. Demetro wanted to be involved and took on the task of creating the bronze figures.

Getting it all together

On a trip to Washington, D.C., with his daughter and wife, Demetro was able to secure two large pieces of the Pentagon façade. Going on to New Jersey, he found some twin tower pieces. But “everything was gone” except one last piece about five feet by three feet.

With the help of James Hoffa Jr., president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the pieces made their way to Washington and then to the Chehalis Veterans Memorial Museum.

These pieces were originally expected to be used for the sculpture, but because of their historic value they will be left inside the museum and replicas will be made for the center of the sculpture.

Sculpture design

Demetro’s “Spirit of America Monument” will include bronze statues of four people: a firefighter, an airline pilot, a flight attendant and an office worker. All four people will have their backs toward a representation of the Twin Towers in the middle. A fifth spot will have footprints and an opening where visitors can stand and complete the circle.

Low on the figures, the surfaces look as if they are covered in ash. Toward the top the statues become smooth, adding symbolism.

“This signifies America’s spirit of rising above challenges, and also remembering the past while looking out toward a more peaceful future,” according to the Spirit of America Foundation pamphlet.

The Chehalis Veterans Memorial Museum will be the likely home of the sculpture. The plan is to dedicate the artwork on Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Chip Duncan, director of the Veterans Memorial Museum, has been trying for many years to get the memorial in place and knows it will bring in the public.

“Of course — naturally, the potential site is going to be visible from the freeway,” Duncan said.

Funding problems

The project cost $200,000 and originally was sponsored, but the funding fell through unexpectedly. The goal now is to raise enough funds to cover $80,000 of it.

Ava Demetro, Jim Demetro’s wife, mentioned that funding will be difficult.

“$80,000 in a few months is an ambitious task,” Ava Demetro said.

The group recently set up the The Spirit of America Foundation so that donations could be made and people can learn more about the project.

Meanwhile, the clay sculptures left Friday to go to the Soderberg Studio and Bronze Works foundry in Cascade Locks, Ore. There the figures will be cast in bronze, a process that takes about two months.

The project has come to a point when it needs to get completed even without the funding. Jackson hopes the finished work will give people something close to the feeling of what it’s like to be at Ground Zero.

Demetro said the sculpture means a lot and it is a relief to be almost done. He called the 9/11 attacks “heart-wrenching” and said this may be a way to ease the continuing grief.

“This is for future generations, so that they will remember what we will never forget,” Demetro said.

Maecy Enger: maecy.enger@columbian.com.