Standing by the wrapped statue of Theodore Roosevelt are committee members: John Hammond, Mike Rich, Andy Tini, Roger Bahnik and Joe Reilly. Later the plastic bindings were removed and the entire statue covered with a blue tarpaulin to be removed at the unveiling.
The statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, now standing covered with a tarp in front of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys & Girls Club, made the trip from the foundry in Tacoma, WA to Oyster Bay swathed in plastic, atop a flatbed truck. The statue, made from the same mold created in 1921 by renowned sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, came from the Bronze Works Foundry in Tacoma and arrived in Oyster Bay on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 2 a.m.
Truck driver Jeffrey Martin, Sr. from Lafayette, LA, said it was a most interesting ride. "All along the road, curious people drew up alongside the truck to see the statue."
He said he was very lucky at the truck stops. Somehow the truck ended up being parked close to buildings and under the lights. "Drivers were coming over and having their pictures taken with the statue. They wanted to talk all night. I wanted to get some sleep," said Mr. Martin.
The statue had the same draw on the crowd in Oyster Bay as it had on the road. Several people were taking pictures of it as it was being set up on the corner of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys & Girls Club. The lawn of the Bahnik Youth Center seemed a perfect place to end TR's journey.
Andy Tini, chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Statue Committee said, "Roger Bahnik has been a wonderful person. We couldn't have picked a better committee: Joe Reilly was a work horse; John Hammond kept us historically pure; Mike Rich is a TR buff. We met for two years with hardly a harsh word between us. We couldn't have done it without Roger. Roger was always there with an answer when there was a problem."
Mike Rich said, "It was a long road and I'm very happy we've come to the end of it. It was all very worthwhile. Bringing Teddy home - here - finally - is a statement."
Joe Reilly said, "Oyster Bay has finally brought the 26th president home. TR's home!"
"I like it here. I might not want to let it go," said Roger Bahnik.
There is still talk of the statue ending up on the Coastal triangle. The Town of Oyster Bay has gotten an appraisal price for the property but it is still in negotiations.
Oyster Bay Town Historian John Hammond said, "This is just so magnificent. We've seen it in a picture for years, but to see it in person, it's perfect and great and after the setbacks, to have it finally here - and without Roger we wouldn't be here today."
"It's really looking good. Much better than I thought," said Mr. Bahnik, echoing Mr. Hammond's statement. "I thought it might take away from the building but it enhances it. We moved the sign [to the left] and moved the statue [to the right]. Someone said 'if that thing ever goes away, you're going to have to get another statue.'" He said seeing a rider on horseback demonstrating the location some time ago had been a good idea. Mr. Bahnik said they are working on lighting and landscaping for the site.
The truck was not able to cross the George Washington Bridge on Monday because it needed a permit to carry the heavy load across the span, said Mr. Tini. The statue arrived in Oyster Bay on Wednesday morning at 2 a.m. and was kept in the parking lot of Mill Max Mfg. The committee couldn't get the crane to move the statue on Thursday, so it was scheduled for the next day. On Friday morning at 9 a.m. traffic was stopped as the truck pulling the statue drove to the Boys & Girls Club at the corner of Berry Hill Road and Pine Hollow Road. It was lead by an American Legion Color Guard.
Tom Strong of Levittown was the Rough Rider Color Sergeant, riding his horse Jake, and carrying an American flag, who escorted the statue to the site. He followed the American Legion Color Guard.
William Uhlinger of the Nassau Suffolk Horseman's Association (NSHA) said he is looking forward to Saturday, Oct. 29 when his troop will meet Jim Foote, TR impersonator, as he arrives at the LIRR train station in Oyster Bay. "We will have two carriages for the dignitaries to ride in. There will be several elected officials and some appointed officials, Commissioner Bernadette Castro is to be there. It should be an interesting day. I'm sure the whole village will come out to greet the train and to see the station dedication and hear the speeches there and at the Boys & Girls Club. The Rough Riders will be there under the 'colonel' - Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. We are looking forward to it."
Problems kept coming up that needed solving as the statue made its way here. One of them was to get the concrete base in place for the statue. At the last minute Cove Neck Mayor Tom Zoller came through and arranged for George Miller, job site manager for Mayfair Construction to create the concrete platform.
The statue of Theodore Roosevelt will be unveiled and dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 29 (with a rain date, Oct. 30). The day starts at around 9 a.m., as people will begin to gather at the present LIRR Oyster Bay train station. Jim Foote, TR impersonator will be arriving in Oyster Bay at 9:30 a.m. He will ride to the original Oyster Bay station in a horse and carriage, said Dave Morrison, former LIRR Oyster Bay branch manager and chair of the OB Station Restoration Committee for the dedication ceremony. The station received its designation as a National Landmark in July 2005 and it will be dedicated as such that morning. It will include the unveiling of a plaque donated by the Oyster Bay Historical Society and the Theodore Roosevelt Association.
The plaque will say:
"Oyster Bay Rail Road Station
Home Train Station of
President of the United States
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places
Plaque Sponsored by
Theodore Roosevelt Association
The Oyster Bay Historical Society."
Mr. Morrison said, "The name of the TRA will add a lot of "oomph" to the plaque. Bernadette Castro [NYS Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Places] will be there at the dedication and will speak, as will LIRR President James Dermody and Tom Kuehhas, Oyster Bay Historical Society director. Jim Foote will also speak a few quotations. We will end at about 10:20 a.m so that there is enough time to gather for the march up South Street to the statue. The statue dedication will be the main event.
"Tom Kuehhas has produced the journal for the arrival of the TR statue. He has added two pages of station history. They would not have been there if we were not going to have the station dedication."
The Town of Oyster Bay Showmobile will be set up facing the statue where the dedication will take place at 11:30 a.m. The Bahnik Youth Center will be closed that day.
Mr. Tini, a past governor of Rotary International said Oyster Bay-East Norwich Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington was the Rotary Club of Oyster Bay's centennial president. She will not be at the ceremony, but Lawrence Jorgenson, the District Governor for the Centennial Year will speak for her and for Rotary. Mr. Tini will speak on behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt Statue Committee.
Rotary member Fritz Coudert III, one of the major contributors for the statue said it was for a very personal reason that he became involved in the project. I wanted to be part of this to show what a wonderful rich, cultural heritage Oyster Bay has. There are very few places that can boast as rich a background as this area has."
He added, "There are few presidents who were as colorful as TR, in the history of the United States. Here in Oyster Bay we have a history that reaches back into the colonial era with Raynham Hall when there were Loyalists and Revolutionaries here. The statue will certainly add to the mix."
Mr. Coudert said Rotary chose the statue as their project to celebrate the centennial of Rotary, the international club that is known for their community service projects. "Generally they do not take on any project that takes over one year to complete. Officers are chosen for one year. It was a difficult decision because of the amount of money needed, $300,000, and the time it would take." He said if a sculptor was asked to create the statue today, it would cost $1 million. "The sculptor's son is still alive and he had the mold and therefore we were able to arrange it."
Marge and Fritz Coudert were the first to sign up and say they would give $100,000 to the project. Abby and George O'Neills followed and donated $35,000. After that there were other donors, including Roger Bahnik. Mr. Tini said while the plaque will list the three major donors, there were 154 donations from the community. "I know because of the number of thank you notes I sent out," he said.
The Oyster Bay Historical Society Director Tom Kuehhas wrote a journal for the TR Statue. The front page has a picture of the statue. The last page has a picture of the WaterFront Center of which Mr. Coudert is board president. The journals will be sold for $5 apiece to benefit both the Oyster Bay Historical Society and the maintenance of the statue. Tents will be set up at Marino Field where there will be food vendors and souvenirs for people to buy. That includes a pin for $2; postcards for $2; and the journal. The journal contains approximately 20 pages of original stories and rarely-seen photographs of TR. For information to receive a copy, please call Thomas A. Kuehhas, director, Oyster Bay Historical Society at 922-5032.
On Friday afternoon, with the statue unwrapped and hidden under a blue tarpaulin, Mr. Tini was seated in a folding chair, contemplating what his two years of dedication has wrought. He appeared to be a very contented man.