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Column: Don't stand there like a statue. Take a drive to Lismore

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Column: Don't stand there like a statue. Take a drive to Lismore
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- It was Maundy Thursday morning, or Good Friday morning. The talk was of sculpture, the crucified Christ. How many statues of the crucifixion have you seen? Where was the best Christ sculpture you have seen? There is a painting of the crucifixion from above; have you seen that?

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From there the talk turned to sculpture generally -- the seated Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, the statue of President Grant on his horse Cincinnati outside the U.S. Capitol, the Statue of Liberty, the statues of Hubert Humphrey and Charles Lindbergh and Christopher Columbus on the green outside the Minnesota state capitol.

Then attention turned to the local area. Statues, sculpture that we might see every day. You see a statue every day? Which town in Nobles County has the most statues on public display? One of the chatterers said, "I'm not talking now about inside churches. I am talking about public display. Where do you see statues on public display?"

"I don't know. Worthington, I suppose."

No, no, no, no.

That brought to mind an old story. When Worthington built the Grade School on Fourth Avenue in 1930, the architect made provision for a niche in stone opposite the main entrance. Inside the niche was a marble block on which to place a sculpture.

The architect -- his name is lost -- the architect wanted the school to be named Longfellow School. So it was that he gave Worthington a sculpted stone bust of the poet Henry Longfellow to be in that special place across from the front doors. School officials of that time were stubborn. Worthington Grade School, not Longfellow School, they said. So it came to be that when anyone through nearly three-quarters of a century entered the Grade School, they saw Henry Longfellow. Many probably did not know who it was they were seeing.

The Longfellow bust is now a property of the Nobles County Historical Society. It stands amid artifacts and memorabilia the Historical Society has no space to display, but if you ask you can see the likeness of the good New England poet.

But -- no. Worthington really has no statue on public display. There is the risen Christ at Garden of Memories Cemetery, but that is quite a distance beyond the city limits. There is the Trojan at Worthington High School. That is sculpture of sorts.

But get serious. Which Nobles County town has the most statues?

Bigelow?

Bigelow has no statues. If you continue on Highway 60 to Hospers, Iowa, 35 miles down the road, you can see the main street statue of the World War I doughboy.

Kinbrae?

Kinbrae has no statues.

Rushmore?

Rushmore has no statues.

Wilmont?

Wilmont has a statue of the crucifixion at Calvary Cemetery.

The Nobles County community with the most statuary is Lismore. Lismore has seven statues. Lismore kids are the only kids around who grow up seeing sculpture -- statues -- as part of everyday life. They have an experience most kids in Nobles County don't share.

Lismore has two statues on the west side of main street. One is a sculpture of a U.S. soldier and one is a sculpture of a U.S. sailor, both in World War II vintage uniforms. Around the next corner, outside the City Clerk's office -- outside the fire department building -- is a statue of a fireman.

Then, at St. Anthony's Cemetery, there is an outstanding sculpture of Christ on the cross with three mourning women at the base. One of the figures is on her knees, bent to the ground by grief.

The four figures in the cemetery all are in gleaming white. Each figure is carefully detailed. The sculpture is moving, most certainly, and it ranks as the finest to be found for miles around.

Although it is not a statue, there is that image in brass, in bas relief, of Hubert Humphrey in the Nobles County Government Center. The work is by Charles Gagnon of Rochester, who died one year ago. Gagnon works are displayed in downtown Rochester and in the Vatican collection. The Rochester work -- the Peace Fountain -- has 57 interlocking bronze doves.

But the Nobles County trophy goes to Lismore. With the return of fair weather, Lismore is a place to go on a Sunday afternoon drive.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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