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Local sculptor completes tribute for war widows that will be displayed at Red River Valley Veterans Memorial

The Panola Watchman - 6/9/2018

Local sculptor Bob Harness loves having people lend a hand in his art, frequently inviting young children to help mold clay on whatever project he's working on.

So when a two-man team from the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial came out to inspect an almost-finished sculpture they had commissioned, Harness offered up his knives so that they could help tweak the statue to perfection. At one point, veterans memorial board member Gene Wood was cutting back some clay on a folded U.S. flag.

"George, we're going to have to call you to come help us with the next one! Look! He's got the touch," Harness said.

Harness's latest statue is a 12-feet-tall memorial to war widows and their children. Comprised of a young mother clutching a flag and her son clutching his father's dog tags, the project will be one of several bronze statues taking prized positions at the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial in Paris, which seeks to honor all military veterans from all wars.

Harness has already completed one sculpture for the memorial: a tribute to war dogs. Harness's next project is a 9-foot-tall statue of Dr. Roy Hofheinz commissioned by the University of Houston for their campus.

But his latest project was inspired by a Paris war widow and her 2-year-old son, Harness said, but the woman didn't want memorial organizers to use her face or name. So Harness got two area residents to serve as models. Harness was assisted by Donnie Pitchford and Bob Gober in completing the statue.

It should be in place by Veteran's Day, Harness said.

Board members for the veterans memorial were on hand Thursday at Harness's studio to evaluate the project and give final approval. The clay sculpture will be cast into bronze, with about 20 pieces to be assembled on-site at the memorial. For Harness, that's a small number. His Footprints in the Sand monument in Carthage was made of more than 130 pieces all welded together.

"How they weld it all together, I don't know because that bronze warps," Harness told committee members on Thursday.

Harness started working on the memorial in late March - right after a stay in the hospital. He was eager to start working on the project.

"You called me on the way from Dallas when you got out of the hospital and said 'We ready to go to work Monday morning?'" Gober said.

 
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