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Mason's American Legion raised $32,000 for local wood carver to replace soldier statues by City Hall

Mike Swagart carving the War of 1812 soldier statue
Mike Swagart wood carving
Posted at 10:08 AM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 05:43:05-04

MASON, Mich. — American Legion Post 148 in Mason raised $32,000 in just one year, to pay a local woodcarver to replace eight soldier statues stationed outside Mason City Hall.

Eight soldiers representing eight U.S. wars outside of Mason City Hall
Eight soldiers representing eight U.S. wars outside of Mason City Hall

"It turns out each one of these statues is deteriorating quicker than what was anticipated," Leon Clark, veteran and Commander of the American Legion Post 148.

The statues were dedicated to the city by the legion in 2014 to "honor all members of the military from every war with the United States since the beginning," Clark said.

"They've become such a key part of our community," he said.

But, there's a problem.

Soldier from Iraq-Afghanistan War
Soldier from Iraq-Afghanistan War

"Some were done in softer woods that have a tendency to deteriorate quicker," Clark said. "The ones that we're doing now are all going to be done in white oak, so we should get a little longer shelf life out of them."

These statues aren't cheap. Clark said they cost between $6,000 and $8,000 per statue.

Civil War soldier statue
Civil War soldier statue
World War I soldier statue
World War I soldier statue

So, how did they get the money?

"The 100 Women's Club just last week donated $6,000 to us. We've had an individual that gave us $5,000. Meijer gave us $2,500, Modern Woodman gave us $2,500, and then the rest of it was...whatever people wanted to send us," Clark said.

Mike Swagart, wood carver from Dansville
Mike Swagart, wood carver from Dansville

Mike Swagart of Dansville is the artist for the project. He's been carving for about six years.

"I'm a carpenter by trade, so I've been woodworking my whole life," Swagart said.

World War II soldier statue
World War II soldier statue

Swagart replaced the World War II soldier last year, and is now starting work on the soldier for the War of 1812.

It took him just under a year to finish the first, but he hopes to get faster.

"I like a good challenge. These are all going to be a real good challenge for me," Swagart said.

Mike Swagart of Dansville wood carving
Mike Swagart of Dansville wood carving

Clark and Swagart said, as they're replaced, the old statues will be sold at Michigan Barnwood and Salvage in Mason.

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Lauren Shields

Lauren Shields

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Lauren Shields