Groupseeks donations for "The Vigil"

Published on Thu, Feb 2, 2006 by ack Kintner

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Group seeks donations for "The Vigil"

By Jack Kintner

Pacific Arts Association announced the kick-off of a major fundraising drive this week that will fund a major sculpture honoring the families of Blaine’s historic fishing fleet.

Called “The Vigil,” the sculpture is a life-sized bronze statue of three people representing three successive generations standing on shore looking out to sea. It will be installed on a pedestal on the H Street end of Blaine’s boardwalk. Blaine sculptor Bob McDermott, whose ‘Dirty Dan Harris’ bronze has become the symbol for Fairhaven, is doing the work.

McDermott, born almost literally on the beach in St. Petersburg, Florida, knows what it means to look out to sea. “I’ve seen these fishermen’s memorials,” he said recently, “and I always wonder about those the fishermen left behind, the people who maintained the community while the men, usually men, were gone.”

Jan Hrutfiord, a Blaine native of Icelandic descent is the daughter of Eythor Westman, a Blaine fisherman for 64 years until felled by a stroke in 1996.

She spoke to one of the worst parts of the kinds of beach vigils maintained by families when she told of how her dad “would look at a map of Alaska and say that here’s a friend here, and there’s another friend over here, and so on, all of them places where fishermen he knew had been lost.”

When Westman began fishing as a tender operator in the days of salmon traps and later in his own boat, marine radios were a luxury rarely found on fishing boats. “If someone was lost at sea, then either they just wouldn’t come back, or a friend would know and have to tell the family when he returned to town,” Hrutfiord said.

McDermott’s idea for a different kind of fishing family memorial grew out of the concern he had for those who waited so many long days for their men to return, but who spent the time working, often far harder in a physical sense than can be imagined today.

When it came time to find a model for the characters, McDermott chose Hrutfiord and ended up using her for two of the three figures in the piece, women who are of different generations “but not necessarily a mother and daughter,” Hrutfiord said. The third figure is a young boy that was modeled by Andrew Dahl, someone McDermott spotted at last year’s Summeraire Art Show. The three people represent the past, present and future for Blaine.

McDermott has life-size bronze sculptures in several places around the county, especially in the southwest and southern California. He said he likes to create a presence with his sculptures that recalls a childhood experience of discovering life-sized statues of the Greek muses in a park, something that deeply impressed him.

Today, he tries to elicit that reaction in others by giving his work an almost eerie kind of realism, almost as if his statues could begin talking at any time. His best-known work in the area is a life-sized statue of Fairhaven’s Dirty Dan Harris, dedicated in the spring of 2003, and McDermott said that he’s caught people taking to Dirty Dan as they slouch alongside him on the bench that’s part of the work. Dirty Dan sits near Fairhaven’s Village Books on the Fairhaven village green.
McDermott’s plans to give “The Vigil” the same kind of realism when it’s installed next year at the foot of H Street on one end of the boardwalk.

Such ventures aren’t cheap, of course. The total cost of the sculpture will be $125,000, but according to Pacific Arts Association’s fundraising committee chair Bruce Wolf, initial efforts have been met with enthusiasm. He said he’s been surprised at how much people have supported the idea to have a memorial to strong women, especially when Hrutfiord goes with him. “When I show the photo with her along the response is amazing,” Wolf said.

Beginning this week patrons will be able to buy a permanent part of the sculpture site and contribute to its purchase by buying an engraved brick, stone or bronze paver or brass plaque. Engraved bricks will be laid at the entrance to the boardwalk plaza and on the surface of the platform that will support the statue ($50 to $250.) Plaques which will adorn the steps are $1,000, the foot-square stone pavers are $2,500 and the larger bronze pavers up to $10,000. Pacific Arts Association is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.

Wolf said that McDermott is presently in southern California working on the casting, and that when finished hopes to install it September first of this year.

For more information, and to contribute on-line, go to

Contributions may also be made at Northern Meadows Specialty Gifts and Wine at 684 Peace Portal Drive, the corner of Peace Portal Drive and H Street in Blaine.