With Co-op Help, Doughboy Rises AgainBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: April 22nd, 2014
When a devastating tornado ripped through West Liberty, Ky., the local electric cooperative was there to help pick up the pieces.
Two years later, Licking Valley RECC was at the scene again, but for a more joyous occasion. In what some say is a small symbol of the town’s recovery, line crews re-attached a beloved statue of a World War I doughboy to a pedestal outside the town’s courthouse during a recent rededication ceremony.
The statue still bears scars from the storm — symbolizing the trauma the town has endured the past two years. “For years the doughboy represented the sacrifices made during World War I,” said Kerry Howard, the co-op’s manager. “Now it represents not only those early sacrifices, but also the rebuilding efforts of so many after the devastating March 2012 tornado.”
The doughboy statue had stood outside the courthouse since 1927, staring westward. The EF3 tornado that roared through West Liberty and surrounding areas in March 2012 killed almost 10 people and injured at least 75. The co-op had nearly $1.5 million in damages to its system.
Strewn along the twister’s mile-wide path of destruction were homes, businesses—and pieces of the doughboy. Townspeople found the remnants.
“They were afraid there wouldn’t be any hope for it” to be restored, said Maudie Nickell, the co-op’s communications, marketing and advertising coordinator.
News of the broken statue caught the attention of two sculptors in nearby Morehead, both Marine Corps veterans. “We looked at it, and we looked at each other. We knew we were up to the challenge,” said Steve Tirone, one of the sculptors.
With fellow artist Eddie Horton, Tirone worked off and on for about two years in his studio, piecing together the 800-pound statue with a plastic-like substance and steel pins.
“The head was torn off the torso and part of the helmet rim was missing. But his face was intact. It was fortunate that it hit the grass when it fell,” said Tirone.
Today, doughboy stands tall once again in its rightful place in West Liberty. In front of a crowd of more than 100 townspeople and National Guard members, the co-op’s line crews recently lowered the statue onto its pedestal with the help of a bucket truck.
“It was a great thing to see and be a part of,” said Tommy Conley, the co-op’s general line superintendent, who assisted during the job. “The statue means a lot to the town because it represents our freedom. People will probably pay more attention to it now than before. You don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.”