WILTON, Conn. — First Selectman Bill Brennan welcomed a sculpture of George Washington that was given to the town of Wilton — saying that it had been 77 years in the making.
In a ceremony Tuesday, the sculpture, dubbed "Valley Forge Washington," was dedicated. The piece by Gifford M. Proctor was given by the Proctor and Keiser families.
Gifford Proctor lived and worked in Wilton at various times for over 40 years.
The statue, first created in Rome in 1938, was Gifford’s personal response to Hitler and Nazism that was sweeping over Europe at the time.
He wanted to create an American hero and chose Washington, the father of our country and leader of the Continental Army.
The statue captures a resolute figure standing in a cold, terrible storm, his cape flowing in the wind overlooking his troops at Valley Forge during a bleak point in the Revolutionary War.
Gifford’s initial creation in his Rome studio was a small statue that he titled “Valley Forge Washington.” World War II, however, interrupted his plans to have his statue enlarged and placed at Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania.
But after the war, his quest resumed and he was able to have his small statue enlarged to a 10-foot sculpture that was eventually taken to his studio on Seeley Road in Wilton.
In 2006, Gifford died at the age of 94 with his unfinished sculpture still at his Seeley Road studio.
Peter Rubino, another famous Wilton sculptor, donated his work “Nurture,” the first piece of municipal sculpture installed on Hubbard Street in Wilton Center.
When the Keiser property was sold, which included the studio, the unfinished Washington sculpture was threatened.
When Peter Keiser asked whether the town was interested, Brennan said yes.
After 30 years at the studio, the sculpture was not in good shape and needed many repairs.
The statue needed to be reinforced, restored and refinished as Gifford had intended. It also had to be moved from the studio.
To accomplish all of this, a “Save George” fundraising campaign was started. Through the generosity of many the required funds were raised and the statue is now installed in town.
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