The Merchant Mariner Memorial located in New York City

When we were kids, we were taught to listen to mom and dad. When we were in school, we were expected to do what the teacher said. If we were in the Armed Forces, we were required to abide by the wishes of our sergeant-in-command. After discharge, we were expected to listen to our Legion Commander, and for the rest of our lives, we were obliged to do as Legion Commander’s wife suggested!

The other day, I received a magazine article from Carolyn Schultz, the wife of Past Walker Legion Commander Dutch Schultz. Evidently Carolyn knew of my interest in statues, as the article was about, “A hat-toss seen around the world!” When Mary Tyler Moore threw her blue tam into the air in September 1970, during the opening of her television show, few could have predicted it would become one of the lasting images in television history.

It was simply a moment of joy — a young woman celebrating her new life in Minnesota! In 2002, the monument was captured in bronze by artist Gwen Gillen and dedicated to Mary Tyler Moore on the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. In July 2015, however, the statue was removed as the city began a lengthy reconstruction project to renovate the downtown thoroughfare.

Today, after a $50 million reconstruction, the new and improved Nicollet Mall is finished and the Bronze Mary is back on the corner of Seventh and Nicollet!

Carolyn, I appreciate your contribution and I sincerely thank you for your interest. I must confess, however, my favorite statue is a much more uncelebrated and obscure — the bronze monument called the Doomed Merchant Mariner Memorial. It is located in the northwest corner of Battery Park in New York City — just off-shore at the end of the line where people line up to board the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. A bronze plaque attached to the statue reads, “Left to the perils of the sea — the survivors later perished.”

The monument consists of four doomed seamen atop a sinking boat. One shouts for help, a second kneels in shock, a third reaches down not quite far enough toward a hand, extending out of the water of a drowning mate. In 1988, a French artist of Venezuelan heritage, Marisel Escobar, created the statues based upon an actual historical event.

During World War II, a Nazi U-Boat attacked a merchant marine vessel, and while the mariners clung to their sinking vessel, the Germans photographed the victims. The monument honors the thousands of Merchant Mariners who have died at sea in the course of our nations’s history, and has become my favorite, most-liked statue ever.

Those of you who read this column, in addition to Carolyn, know by now I have a thing about statues, and the other day “Trip Advisor,” a state-wide travel promoter, suggested the “Top Ten Monuments in Minnesota” to visit.

Not necessarily in any order of rank, the are as follows: “Paul Bunyan” and “Chief Bemidji” in Bemidji, “Herman the German” in New Ulm, “Big Ole Viking” in Alexandria, “Iron Man” in Chisholm, “Otto the Big Otter” in Fergus Falls, “Buffy the Cow” in Austin, “World’s Largest Loon” in Vergas, “Karl Oskar and Kristine” in Lindstom and our very own “Circle of Time!”

I was a bit disappointed the statue I designed and promoted in Silver Bay, named, “Rocky Taconite,” did not make the list, and I also think if we would have made the “Statue of Unity” in the Walker Rock Garden larger, it might have made the list also.

I have become very concerned about the words in the good book of Exodus 20:4-5 that tells us, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord our God am a jealous God!”

I asked Pastor Joel Randell, who not only sculpted our own “Circle of Time,” but is also a preacher in Luther, Okla., what he thought about all this. His reply was, “I have considered this prohibition from scripture before, and I have come to the conclusion we should always approach every scripture as being the Holy words of God to be taken seriously. However, the best way to fully grasp what it is that God wants and requires from us is to consistently view each part within the context of the whole.”

I also directed my quest to Pastor Matt McWaters from my own Hope Lutheran Church, and his explanation was a bit more personal. “Your passion for statues, like my passion for hunting and hockey, may distract us, but these are temporary distractions that are a part of our human experience. This is also documented in scripture, over and over again, among God’s faithful people.”

Pastor Matt continued on, and herein lies the connection to the theme of this column. The building of statues and memorials to remember our history has been happening from the beginning of time. Thanks be to God that our relationship with God depends on God’s promise and choice, not our own!

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