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Bronze committee seeks to immortalize local astronaut

Former President Ronald Reagan once said, "Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."

How about South Fifth Street, at the end of Franklin Avenue? If the Bonnie Dunbar Bronze Committee has its way, that is as far as you will have to travel to see an American hero.

Over the last several years, the Bronze Society has banded together to immortalize important figures from the Lower Yakima Valley's distant past, including Ren Ferrel and Lloyd Miller, but now it is time to honor someone who not only influenced significant events of the past, but continues to make an important impact on the future.

Any good Sunnyside resident can tell you who Dr. Bonnie Dunbar is: she is one of us. Born and raised in the Lower Yakima Valley, Dunbar graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1967, attended the University of Washington, and, of course, in 1985, Dunbar went into space.

Then she did it four more times.

To honor her achievements, Dunbar has been selected by the bronze committee to be immortalized with a statue in her likeness.

Okay, so she is not just like us, but she is still one of us. Though she is now President and CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Dunbar has not forgotten where she came from and the community that helped shape her. She still returns to the Yakima Valley to teach and inspire a whole new generation of adventurers.

Just as she has not forgotten her home, the bronze committee endeavors to ensure that the Yakima Valley will not forget her.

Committee members are determined to see a larger- than-life bronze statue of Dunbar placed on South Fifth Street to honor her contributions to the world, to her country, to her state and to her community.

But getting a bronze statue is no easy feat, and it certainly is not cheap. With an estimated cost of $70,000, the Committee has its work cut out for it. They plan to exhaust all possible resources, looking for grants and donations, but are hoping for the bulk of the money to come from the sale of small, table top replicas of the Bonnie Dunbar statue.

The sale of these table top models will cost approximately $3,000 and for limited time only. Once the expected 24 models are sold, they are gone for good.

Even then, the process of creating a bronze statue is one of precision and patience. "You don't rush an artist," Randy Schuler of the bronze committee said at last Thursday's meeting, "and you don't want to."

The artist in this instance is Desiree Dawn, whose splendid and detailed sculptures the Bronze Society has used before. It is estimated (but by no means accurately) that Dawn could have a clay sculpture of Dunbar done in six weeks. The point-up, or life-size or larger version, could take, a minimum, of four months.

From Dawn's studio to Norman's, the final statue will have to do some traveling before finding its home on South Fifth Street. Tim Norman will finish the Bonnie Dunbar statue when Dawn finishes the large clay model.

Though Norman is a busy artist, with clients from around the world, he will complete the Dunbar statue as he did with Sunnyside's previous three. A mold is made of Dawn's finished clay model and sent to Norman, who will create the bronze statue and send it home, to South Fifth Street.

It is a long and costly process, but the committee knows its value. Not only does it allow them to honor a fine Lower Valley resident, but it can teach and inspire whole new generations.

If you are interested in learning more, or would like to help this dream become reality, the Bonnie Dunbar Bronze Committee will meet at the Sunnyside Mini Mall every third Thursday starting on March 25 at 7 p.m.

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