Brand new sculpture in La Plata commemorates 2002 tornado
Represents 15 year calm after the storm
The Town of La Plata now has a commemorative sculpture that captures the perseverance of the town when it suffered hardship and grief.
At this year’s Celebrate La Plata event Saturday, the town unveiled a 15 foot sculpture created to commemorate the day the tornado struck La Plata on April 28, 2002.
“The Star Sculpture stands as testament to the chaos that happened 15 years ago. The star at the top highlights the rising of calm after the
storm,” said Judy Norris, chair of the Beautification Committee for the Town of La Plata.
Those who gaze at the sculpture will see black iron rods twisting upwards and finishing at the top where a silver star is the center of attention. The sculpture weighs 2,800 pounds and stands about 15 feet high.
Norris said the sculpture had already been in the works since March 2016, with sculptor Lew Martin, owner of Indian Head Iron Works, and with guidance from the Beautification Committee. Members of the Beautification Committee that helped organize the Star Sculpture are Kathy Cox, Dianne Goodrich, Rose Goldsmith, Janice Gilroy, council representative Wayne Winkler and staff liaison Danielle Mandley.
“The tornado means destruction — it’s a destructive weather phenom,” Martin said. “The star represents perseverance. It shows the strength and the will of the town so I want everyone to concentrate on the star because we know we can defeat anything. The first tornado hit in 1926, the town came back and it happened again in 2002.”
According to Martin, the entire sculpture is made of steel. The star on top is made of stainless steel with tubing around the star for added dimension. He said it took four attempts to get the sculpture right but the effort was worth it because he loves the town.
Norris said after many roundtable discussions and several tweaked replicas of designs, the final replica was presented to the council and administration in late 2016.
“The sculpture represents for me and for others the twisted chaos the night that the tornado happened,” said Councilman C. Keith Back. “I was downtown walking the streets and there were places that I couldn’t recognize — it was tough. The star represents the calm: the calm after the storm, the calm of the people that helped, the calm of all the citizens who joined in to make the town what it is today, “
Councilman Joseph Norris said the star on the top of the sculpture reminds him of a similar one that used to be on the water tower before the tornado struck. “You could see the star on the water tower from a distance and know that you were getting close to home,” Norris said.
“The sculpture helps us remember that things were twisted but the star represents how the town stood together,” said Councilman Lynn Gilroy. “Thank you to the beautification committee, La Plata Mill & Supply Co Inc. and all those who had a hand in this.”
Mayor Roy G. Hale said the sculpture is unusual in a way but an outstanding element of the town.
“It’s been 15 years since the destruction that we’ve experienced and to have a structure like that with a whirlwind pattern demonstrating the effect of the tornado, that symbolizes the strength and vitality of the town,” Hale said. “[Martin] did an outstanding job designing it, building it, putting his own time and some of his own money into it. The sculpture will stand as a remembrance of the tornado for a very long time.”
Norris said in the future the sculpture will eventually be lighted and have four benches added to the base where one can sit and enjoy the surroundings. For now, the citizens of the town can marvel at the unique sculpture every time they walk by Town Hall.
Sculptor Lew Martin, the La Plata Town Council, and members of the Beautification Committee await the sculpture dedication at Town Hall on April 29. Below left, Lew Martin, sculptor and owner of Indian Head Iron Works, speaks during the sculpture dedication at Town Hall on April 29. According to Judy Norris, chair of the Beautification Committee for the Town of La Plata, the sculpture weighs 2,800 pounds and stands about 15 feet high.
Lew Martin, sculptor and owner of Indian Head Iron Works, with his apprentice welder Matt McCain, stand by the finished sculpture at La Plata Town Hall on April 29.