Sculptor campaigns for statue for GIs

 Messenger photos by John Matuszak
Sculptor Alfred Tibor wants to erect a nine-foot monument to the American GIs of World War II on the southeast corner of Drexel Circle in Bexley. The artist, above, stands in his Columbus studio next to the frame for the full-size figure. Below is the scale model for the monument.


The American GIs of World War II asked nothing for themselves as they made a stand against tyranny.

Internationally known Columbus sculptor Alfred Tibor is asking nothing from Bexley except a place to put up a monument to the sacrifices of those GIs.

"Humanity is something we shouldn’t forget. If we lose our humanity, we have lost everything," Tibor told City Council July 24 in requesting a space on the southeast corner of Drexel Avenue and Broad Street to erect a nine-foot bronze statue of a soldier carrying a concentration camp prisoner.

Tibor found in his travels that few towns have such monuments to "the Greatest Generation."

For him, even the memorial in Washington, D.C., lacks a personal connection. So he crafted a figure to vividly dramatize the war’s tragedy and triumph.

Stanley Thall, a Bexley native and a longtime friend of Tibor, had the idea of placing the work at Drexel Circle.

The site’s military history began when it served as Camp Bushnell, a training ground during the Spanish-American War, Thall pointed out.

On the northwest corner stands an obelisk carved with the names of the men and women of the city who served during World War II, including Thall, an Army Air Corps veteran.

To Thall, the statue "typifies the American spirit of giving, of lifting people up out of the dunghill of despair and depravation and lifting them up to a life of hope and freedom."

There would be no cost to the city for the monument, Tibor said. This would be his eleventh installation in Columbus.

He will be seeking donations from the community for the monument. A similar size project he completed cost about $80,000.

Tibor would like to see the final product unveiled by July 4, 2008. He has already put down a deposit with a Zanesville foundry for the metal work, and has ordered the granite base from India.

The concept has progressed from small-scale clay models to the full-size mold of metal, wire and wood that will undergo successive layers of plaster, rubber and wax before the bronze is poured.

Firsthand knowledge

Tibor said he wants future generations to know why the soldiers fought to free Europe from the Nazis.

Tibor, 87, a Jew from Hungary, experienced this history of oppression and liberation first-hand.

Born in 1920, he discovered his aptitude for sculpting at an early age, fashioning figures from the bread dough his mother kneaded in the family kitchen. In school, he would draw pictures on his slate.

But as a Jew, he endured the hatred of his classmates and knew there was no chance that he would able to attend a university to study sculpting or architecture.

As a 16-year-old gymnast, he was selected for the Hungarian Olympic team of 1936, but was almost immediately excluded because of his religion (his granddaughters made up for the slight by nominating him as an Olympic torch bearer in 1996).

During World War II, he was forced to join the army as a slave laborer.

He then spent several years in a Soviet prison camp before being released in 1947, weighing 75 pounds when he was released. He learned that his entire family had perished in the Nazi Holocaust.

After fleeing the Communists in 1956, Tibor brought his family to America, the day he considers his birthday.

He worked as a commercial artist in Miami, and then was recruited to join Value City stores by Jerome Schottenstein.

In 1973, with Schottenstein as one of his patrons, he began his sculpting career, teaching himself perspective and anatomy, "the alphabet of the artist," to fulfill a lifelong dream, and creating works that express the need for peace and love in the world.

Works on display in Bexley include the "Promise for Life" monument to Holocaust victims at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the sculpture "With Knowledge…" in front of St. Charles Preparatory Academy, celebrating the school’s educational mission.

He has also contributed sculptures to Agudas Achim synagogue and the Arthur James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University.

He raised money and erected a statue honoring Arthur Boke, the first African-American born in Franklinton on the west side of Columbus, and the white Sullivan family who raised him from infancy. Other works are displayed around the world, from Belgium to Brazil.

"I can speak for all the residents when I say we would be honored to have another one of your sculptures in Bexley," Council President Mark Masser said.

The request will be referred to the Tree and Public Gardens Commission.

"Mr. Tibor, this will happen," Councilman John Rohyans promised.

A fund is being set up through Bexley City Hall for donations, that will be tax-deductible.

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