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Cherished Phil Niemisto statue a gift for generations

Few pieces of public art embody so well the spirit of a man and the community who loved him as downtown Marquette’s statue of the beloved late Phil Niemisto, which has graced his namesake pocket park along West Washington Street since fall 2017.

The efforts to protect and preserve this cherished statue also speak volumes about the enduring love for Niemisto and the artistic commitment of Earl Senchuk, the Marquette-area artist who created the sculpture of Niemisto.

After a temporary hiatus from its bench in the Phil Niemisto Pocket Park, the statue was returned to its “home” Wednesday after Senchuk extensively refurbished and repaired the statue, according to a Friday Journal article.

The refurbishment was surely no small feat, as it involved a variety of work on the statue’s head, face, thumb, hat, buttons, and more.

“Phil is better looking than ever,” Senchuk told the Journal.

One preservative step taken involved placing a clear matte acrylic finish on the statue’s head to help it last through the hot summers, long winters — and even lipstick kisses — that await the statue.

“Although I’m sure ‘Phil’ doesn’t mind, ladies sometimes apply lipstick kisses that can’t be cleaned easily from a semi-porous casting material like Permastone,” Senchuk told the Journal. “The seal coat of acrylic will now help with that.”

The statue of the late Niemisto — who was a much-loved and well-known figure in the downtown area due to his famed kindness, window-washing skills and maintenance of the pocket park — was placed at the park in October 2017, while Niemisto died in 2018 at age 88.

This statue and the man it depicts mean a great deal to area residents, and we are glad to see it preserved, protected and cared for.

We also feel the statue reflects many positive things about our community: an appreciation and recognition of our neighbors, our commitment to public arts, the giving and caring spirit of many area residents, and of course, our city’s enduring love and appreciation of the kind-spirited, hardworking man who brightened the days of so many people in his 88 years.

We commend Senchuk and all involved in protecting and preserving this priceless statue, as it is a truly cherished piece of our community that we hope to see enjoyed by generations to come.

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