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Return of Verona's Doughboy statue delayed

vnddoughboy02081414jpg
DAN SPEICHER | FOR TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Verona's World War I memorial Doughboy awaits repair in the borough building on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014

Editor's note: This is the first is a series of articles updating stories covered by the Valley News Dispatch in 2014.

The Verona Doughboy statue's triumphant return to its place in the borough's war memorial has been postponed until June — at the earliest.

Borough officials were tentatively optimistic this summer about refurbishing and re-erecting the statue in the memorial on Allegheny River Boulevard by the end of the year.

Its return was postponed, however, because of a later-than-anticipated return to work for the borough foreman, who is tasked with repairing the statue. Verona Mayor David Ricupero said the foreman, Russell Frazier, was forced to take time off because of personal issues and has focused his attention on other priorities since his return.

Frazier could not be reached for comment.

The 7-foot statue, depicting and named for the American infantryman in World War I, had been the centerpiece of the war memorial for more than 55 years. The Doughboy has been AWOL since 2007, though, after splitting at the ankles and collapsing onto the memorial's brick foundation. His right arm and hand shattered in the fall.

Frazier began working on the statue about four years later, but his repair efforts were stalled when he left work.

Repair efforts are once again underway, and officials are tentatively anticipating a June rededication, Ricupero said.

“It's difficult to say when, exactly, it will be done,” Ricupero said. “It's all weather permitting. (Frazier) handles street plowing, so if it's a rough winter, obviously he's not going to be able to dedicate a lot of time to the statue and the damage was pretty severe.”

The Doughboy's fall in 2007 was the latest in a long list of battle wounds for the storied statue. Since 1943, shortly after its creation, the Doughboy has been burned in a Chicago warehouse; pushed over by vandals; improperly restored; dismembered in transport; and cracked in the stomach.

Before the Doughboy can be returned to the memorial, Frazier must reassemble and reattach the statue's arms and hands; the left one brandishes a bolt-action rifle that survived the latest fall without damage.

When the Doughboy returns to his pedestal, Ricupero said, it will be a special occasion for Verona.

“After the holidays, I think it's really going to start moving, hopefully,” Ricupero said. “It would be nice to get him back up. He's the symbol of pride for the town.”

A black granite eagle statue is holding the Doughboy's spot at the memorial. The eagle will be moved into the borough hall when the Doughboy is ready to leave the maintenance garage.

Braden Ashe is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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