Local Sculpture Honors Veterans

Posted on November 11, 2011 by  
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Years ago, I had the fortune to help coordinate the initial Los Altos Glorious Fourth celebrations.  Since living in Los Altos, Carol & I have helped to plan and coordinate many community events.  The premise of our involvement has always been to strive t0wards a creating stronger sense of community.

Many of the events have been celebrations, while others have been solemn reflections.  Veterans Day holds a special place in our hearts, and each year we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the men and women who have selflessly served in uniform.

There are a number of events and parades, in adjoining communities, where you can gather with others.  However, if you desire a place to simply reflect on the day, we recommend Shoup Park.  At the far end of the park, along the footpath next to the creek bed, you’ll find a sculpture called the Cradle of Liberty.

Recently, Bruce Barton (Editor of the Town Crier) wrote an article about the history of this sculpture.  Below is a slightly edited version of his article. Enjoy …

It rests in Shoup Park – the 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a soldier holding a baby. The message is not one of violence but of peace and preservation – preserving the freedoms of Americans for generations to come.

It’s been 13 years since “Cradle of Liberty” was dedicated on the Fourth of July in 1998. But it endures as a lasting tribute to those from Los Altos and throughout America who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

The iconic statue continues to welcome park visitors, beckoning them to reflect on freedoms often taken for granted. Situated near the trickling Adobe Creek, the peaceful scene is deceiving – the baby also is a symbol of the country’s vulnerability and the continuous protection required from the military.

It started with the late Bill Henderson, a survivor of both the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Helena.  In 1996, Henderson began recruiting like-minded supporters for the project and found a big ally in fellow vet Jay Brandon.

Brandon felt all servicemen throughout U.S. history should be honored. To this end, the Shoup Park soldier is draped in a flag from the American Revolutionary War.

Organized, driven and relentless, the two led a selection committee and fundraising offensive that netted approximately $126,000 from more than 500 contributors.

Armed with the financial resources and the go-ahead for the Shoup Park location, the duo needed to find an artist with the right sensibility and creative touch. They and the selection committee auditioned approximately 40 artists from around the country, before narrowing the choice to three finalists.

Enter Los Altos artist Rebecca R.J. Truman.  A resident of Los Altos since 1994, she began to form an image of a soldier and a baby. She had her next-door neighbor pose with his baby.

“The baby reached out and grabbed his shirt,” said Truman, who incorporated that moment into her sculpture.

Truman dropped off her proposal at Henderson’s house on a Wednesday. By Friday, she received word she had the job.

The process took eight months. Truman’s initial 14-inch model was followed by a 4-foot model, before work began on the 11-foot monument. Shaping the mold was a 29-step process.

The statue was cast in parts and welded together in a Berkeley foundry. Rock for the base was imported from the Sierra. Truman’s father, also a vet, suggested that rocks collected from the scenes of famous battles, from Valley Forge to Gettysburg and Guadalcanal, should be added to the base. Steel support columns 10 feet in length were installed underground. For good luck, Brandon said, four Susan B. Anthony dollars were laid at the bottom of each column.

Each branch of the armed forces had representatives at the elaborate unveiling ceremony, which drew an estimated 1,000 people. On Veterans Day that year, supporters dedicated a plaque near the statue that credited Truman, Brandon and Henderson for their achievement.

“It really is a nice addition to Los Altos,” said Fran Henderson, whose husband died in 2009. “Bill was proud. I’m really proud it’s in Los Altos and what it stands for. And I’m proud of Bill and Jay for having the foresight to put it there.”

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