'Wendy Rose' statue regains her head (with video)

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

Updated: July 23, 2013, 7:50 PM

 
photoArtist Sharon Warman Agnor and her husband, Dave Agnor, carefully place the new head on the statue of "Wendy Rose" Tuesday morning. The head was taken by vandals in May.

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photoAfter the replacing the head, artist Sharon Warman Agnor stands in front of the "Wendy Rose" sculpture. Vandals stole the head in May, and Agnor had to reconstruct it using photos and some measurements of a neck structure that remained.

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photoArtist Sharon Warman Agnor, right, looks over a photograph of the original "Wendy Rose" statue as a guide to head placement with help from artist Kathy Willson, left.

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photoArtist Sharon Warman Agnor secures the new head of "Wendy Rose." Vandals stole the head in May but haven't been caught yet.

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Vandals didn't destroy everything when they stole the head from Vancouver's iconic "Wendy Rose" statue in May.

Besides leaving the body alone, a small piece, a structural support on the top of her neck, remained.

That rectangular grid of metal didn't look like much more than a collar tag at the top of the statue's sweeping frame. But it was immeasurably valuable to artist Sharon Warman Agnor as she went about replacing the head of the memorial to thousands of women who worked in the Kaiser Shipyards during World War II.

"When I saw it had been vandalized, I was sad," Agnor said. "But people who do things like that are small people. They're small people with a small view of the world. They're only thinking about themselves and not the community."

Agnor, her husband, Dave Agnor, and artist Kathy Willson replaced the head on Tuesday — restoring "Wendy Rose" to her former glory overlooking the Columbia River near Beaches Restaurant.

The original head, and the vandals, haven't yet been caught.

But appears it took a few days for the criminals to remove it, Willson said.

"I walk down here all the time, and I noticed she looked off kilter," Willson said of the time shortly before the incident. "It looked like someone was working on it. I told Sharon, and the next day the head was gone."

Maxine Edwards, a receptionist who can see the statue through her window at Martel Wealth Advisors, said she was disgusted when she saw what the vandals had done.

"It was ridiculous," Edwards said. "I was really upset. This is such a remembrance of what happened in the war. I was born in 1938, and I was a kid then. It's just a shame. We saw the day after (the head was taken) that there were a bunch of beer containers laying around."

She folded her arms and smiled as she watched the artists replace the head over the course of the gray morning.

"When the war was over, we were in Northern California by a lumber mill, and I remember the whistle went off for about an hour," Edwards said. "Everyone was so happy it was over. It's just great to see the statue restored."

Rebuilding Wendy Rose's signature red and white polka-dotted scarf was no easy task. A lot of the details about the 37-pound head had been lost since the piece was installed in 2008.

"I did the original bonnet, maybe six or seven years ago, and it was a one-off thing," Agnor said, adding that the six female welding artists that created the piece didn't keep any of the specifications.

"We had to work from photos, except for that one small piece that was left, which I measured to get an accurate idea of the head size," Agnor said.

All that remained in the neck support was a bit of broken glass, but it provided enough information for the restoration. She removed it and put a stronger support in with the new head on Tuesday.

"When they took it off, I think they had to put their full body weight on it and rock it back and forth," Agnor said. "That or they had a crowbar or sledge hammer. It was solidly welded on. I think it's probably in some kid's closet. You can't parade something like that around. Everybody here knows."

The entire sculpture, which depicts Bonneville Dam, Kiggins Theatre in the 1940s and an outfit that is half-dress and half-overalls, signifying women who entered the workforce at that time, was built by six friends who came together in a welding class, Willson said.

"We each came up with our own ideas, then we round-tabled it and came up with what we thought was the best description of the shipyards," Willson said. "It was really fun. We started out just being a bunch of friends that were in welding class together."

Agnor is a professional artist and Willson is an art teacher.

As the two artists and Dave Agnor, who's a psychologist, worked drilling and welding the head, friend Bryan Schmidt stopped by to have a look.

"I know Sharon's really excited to get the head back up there," Schmidt said. "There were some logistics involved in doing this. They had to rent a generator to get enough power for the welder out on the waterfront."

After Agnor finished restructuring the area beneath the new head, her husband, who joked that he had switched hats and become an engineer, picked up the head and placed it carefully on top of the new neck joint.

"Tilt it back a little," Willson said, looking on from the front as if she were telling him to adjust a bit of furniture in the living room.

"No, forward a little," Agnor chimed in.

"It looks like she's getting her hair done," Willson said with a laugh as she looked at the protective smock covering Wendy Rose's shoulders during the welding process.

The artists used pictures of the statue before it was defaced to determine the exact angle of the new head, they added.

When it was done, they poked and shook the structure, making sure it was solid.

"So?" Agnor said, walking to Wendy Rose's front.

"Looks solid," Schmidt said.

After a final climb up the ladder, Agnor removed the smock and grinned over Wendy Rose's shoulder.

"It is finished," she said triumphantly.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo; sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.

View a video of the 'Wendy Rose' work on The Columbian's YouTube channel.