The Century Walk Corporation

Hands are back in place; Stolen sculpture is reinstalled

August 12, 2001 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Kathy Millen

The bronze statue of two clasped hands that was stolen in June now is back on its base on Jefferson Avenue between Washington and Main Streets.

And judging by the efforts of officials with the Naperville Century Walk, which now owns the piece, it isn't going anywhere.

Jeff Hoff of Hard Rock Concrete Cutters, architect George Olson and statue sculptor Earl Swanson reinstalled the sculpture Friday morning.

Hoff stood atop the pedestal and cut a 7-inch cylindrical plug out of the base with a hydraulic drill.

Swanson added a bronze post to the bottom of the statue before dropping it into the base.

The statue was then held in place with epoxy glue.

The Central Area Naperville Development Organization commissioned the statue to honor the late Jim Wehrli, a community leader and business owner who helped found the organization.

Wehrli died in 1994 at age 74.

When the organization disbanded last month after 29 years, it handed the artwork over to the Naperville Century Walk public art exhibit, along with about $5,000 in assets.

Bettye Wehrli watched as the sculpture honoring her late husband was put back in its rightful place.

"Everyone in town that cared about Jim and cared about our downtown is delighted that it has been returned and will be reinstalled properly so that it won't happen again," she said.

"I hope this will translate into other people honoring other things that have been put up to beautify our downtown and for people to be aware that vandalism hurts everyone."

Century Walk President Brand Bobosky said the partnership between businesses represented by CANDO and the city government is a significant part of the past quarter century in Naperville.

"All the trees and lighting and all that is down here is part of that partnership," he said.

Later this year, the Century Walk will hold a formal dedication of the sculpture, Bobosky said.

Swanson, a Lombard resident, applauded Naperville for bringing public artwork to the community.

"The residents of DuPage County should have this beauty to look at," he said.

"Hopefully we can expand the project to other municipalities in the county."
]Four men were charged in connection with the theft of the statue.

Joseph P. O'Leary, 20, of Chicago was charged with damage to public property.

Charged with disorderly conduct were Kevin M. Bee, 20, and Benjamin D. Witzigreuter, 19, both of Naperville; and Benjamin J. Marion, 20, of Aurora.

They are scheduled to appear in court Aug. 22.

Sculptor Earl Swanson, left, and architect George Olson reposition the clasped-hands statue that was returned Friday to its pedestal on Jefferson Avenue between Main and Washington streets after it was stolen in June. The sculpture honors the memory of community leader Jim Wehrli.


Section: NEWS — Page: 5