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Memorial underway: Three ‘Sons of Ishpeming’ to be honored

A clay mold of the Three Sons of Ishpeming has been sent to lower Michigan to be cast into a bronze mold. From left are the likenesses of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Glenn T. Seaborg, nationally acclaimed author and jurist John Voelker and aeronotical engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson. The resulting bronze sculpture will be placed on a large hematite boulder from the Republic Mine. (Photo courtesy of Bob Marietti)
Two volunteers chat as they wait for 10 tons of concrete in at the base of the Three Sons of Ishpeming monument to puddle. The inaugural installation at the Ishpeming Heritage Plaza will honor three famous “Sons of Ishpeming” — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Glenn Seaborg, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and aeronautical engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, and John Voelker, famous author and Michigan Supreme Court justice. The monument surrounded by a small plaza is expected to be completed by Labor Day. (Photo courtesy of Bob Marietti)

ISHPEMING — Those traveling through the city of Ishpeming this past holiday weekend might have wondered what all the hullabaloo is along Hematite Drive near the Iron Ore Heritage trail. The simple answer might be “heritage.”

A group of enterprising area residents are working to create an Ishpeming Heritage Plaza along the public thouroughfare that celebrates notable people with ties to the city.

The first iteration along the plaza will honor three famous “Sons of Ishpeming” — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Glenn Seaborg, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and aeronautical engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, and John Voelker, famous author and Michigan Supreme Court justice.

Organizers of the project have had to “dig deep” in more ways than one.

The location of the first monument will sit atop the former Chicago & North Western Transportation Company train depot, which means volunteers had to clear out the concrete remnants of the platform in order to place an 8-foot diameter pedestal from below the monument.

‘We’ve worked with the (Iron Ore) Heritage Trail throughout this whole process because their trail went through there and they were able to reconstruct the trail,” project organizer Bob Marietti said during a recent interview. “They were using the old bed from the depot and it was all broken up and everything. But we wanted that to be part of the beautification of this city. And that’s why we were doing the monument here.”

The 5-foot-by-2 1/2-foot bronze-cast sculpture of the three men will be set on a 5-foot-by-7-foot hematite boulder from the Republic Mine. Local artist Michael Lempenin of Negaunee created the sculpture, Marietti said. He added that the Voelker and Seaborg families “elated with the likenesses.”

The clay mold of the sculpture has been completed, Marietti said, and will be cast in rubber in preparation for the final product.

“That’ll be done here in July,” Marietti said. “We are hoping to have the dedication around Labor Day and the family members from both the Voelker family and the Seaborg family have examined the molds and have approved of them after some minor changes. They were very pleased with them, in fact.”

A great deal of planning has gone into the volunteer project, which is expected to cost $40,000, which organizers hope will come from donations.

“It’s a community-based program. It’s just a group of people and donors. There is no city money involved in it,” Marietti said.

Alex Sovey, who is an apprentice instructor for the Bricklayers Union Local 2, is one of the volunteers helping to make the memorial happen. He has made the project a learning experience for his apprentices, but has also witnessed a great deal of volunteerism within the union and the community.

“I had a class, I did all the form planning and I helped out with all the layout and design, and I let them, and I observed to make sure they got things right,” Sovey said. “I had one 40-hour week with the apprentices, which I had two of them on board. From then on, it’s been volunteer time. For instance, the day of the pour, we had two journeymen here who came and helped out.”

Organizers of the effort are still seeking donations. About $13,000 has already been raised from individual donors and the Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority.

Marietti is asking that donations be made payable to the city of Ishpeming with a notation of Three Sons Memorial and mailed to Bob Marietti at 508 E. North St., Ishpeming, MI 49849. For more information, contact Marietti via email at cmarietti@sbcglobal.net or call 906-486-6379.

Details on the progress of the project and the fundraising efforts can be found on the Ishpeming Heritage Plaza Facebook page.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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