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Dunbar meets with artist, artisan working on Sunnyside's tribute to the former astronaut

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Dr. Bonnie Dunbar talks with (L-R) Bill Flower and James Van Wingerden about the proposed location and configuration for a bronze statue that will be placed on the island at Sunnyside Central Park. The statue in honor of the Outlook native and former astronaut is set to be cast in the next few months.

Outlook native and former NASA astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar was this past Saturday in Sunnyside visiting with members of the Sunnyside Bronze Committee, as well as the artist and artisan designing a statue in her honor.

Bill Flower, a member of the committee, said the Sunnyside statue is the first to be created in tribute to a living person.

The committee began commissioning bronze statues in honor of Sunnyside's great historical figures for the community's centennial celebration, which took place in 2001.

The first statue commissioned was of Ren Ferrell and it was placed in front of the Ben Snipes Cabin at South Fourth Street and East Grant Avenue, across from the Sunnyside Museum.

Flower told Dunbar the committee also felt it necessary to recognize Lloyd Miller, who made the Roza Canal possible through his tireless efforts.

"He 'crashed' President Roosevelt's train twice," Flower said of Miller, stating the Sunnyside pioneer was determined to gain the attention of those who had the power to assist in the effort to provide funding for an irrigation system to the farmers of the Lower Valley.

Miller, said Flower, believed the best way to accomplish the task was to convince the president the funding would serve a great purpose. So, the Sunnyside pioneer hopped on the Presidential train two times while Roosevelt was visiting the region.

A third statue was commissioned during a year when dairy farmers were receiving bad press. Flower said the bronze committee believed the dairy farmers and pioneers needed to be recognized for their contributions to the community.

As a result, the statue is of a girl milking a cow.

The fourth statue, one depicting Dunbar as a young girl sitting on a bale of hay while she reads and Dunbar in her astronaut's suit, is set to be cast in the next few months.

"You were a natural," Flower said of the committee's choice to pay tribute to Dunbar.

He said the experience of obtaining funds for the statue of Dunbar has been different due to the community's support from the beginning.

Flower said the table models of the statue typically must be cast, then sold before the committee has the funds for the life sized statue. However, the table models haven't yet been cast, but nearly all have been sold.

Dunbar said to Flower, artist "Desiree Dawn" Denton and artisan Tim Norman, "I understand the work that goes into a statuary."

She works for the Museum of Flight in Seattle and said the museum has several statues located there.

What Dunbar is most interested in, however, is encouraging youngsters to read, study and realize their dreams. That is a motivating factor to her support of the statue being commissioned in her honor.

She recalled her love of reading, stating she anticipated the arrival of the book mobile to Sunnyside. She said her mother's first purchase from the book mobile was a set of encyclopedias.

Dunbar said children, acknowledging many youngsters now rely on computers to obtain the information she sought from the encyclopedias, must seek information from reliable sources.

"I deal with so many children who believe we didn't really go to the moon," said Dunbar, stating there is more information available to today's youth, including proof of historical events with the swipe of a few computer keys.

However, she believes youngsters need inspiration. "Our kids need to learn that again...knowledge is power."

Dunbar said many youngsters "build their own fences." As a result, they need to realize they can reach beyond the world they know.

That is why she likes the depiction of herself on a hay bale, reading a book. She said it lets youngsters know they may come from a humble beginning, but they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

"Most of the astronauts in my class came from rural backgrounds," said Dunbar, telling the story of Franklin Chang-Diaz, who grew up in Costa Rica and was raised by his Chinese grandfather. She said he came to the United States with a dream and aspired to achieve what many may have not believed possible for a man who didn't speak English and came from a "very modest background."

Dunbar said, "It's about the journey, not the destination," stating there are many opportunities that must be embraced in life. She said accomplishing one's own goals isn't always easy, but the journey to reaching those goals is what makes it worthwhile.

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