Reagan statue connects areas and eras |

Reagan statue connects areas and eras

Gregory W. Griggs

OXNARD, Calif. – Sculptor Donald L. Reed recently returned to California to put the finishing touches on a life-size bronze of another Illinois native: former President Reagan.The colorful 9-foot-tall “Begins the Trail” statue – which depicts a youthful Reagan atop a palomino – will be the centerpiece of a riverfront development planned in Dixon, Ill., Reagan’s hometown.”His trail leads from Dixon to California, all the way to Washington then back to California,” said Reed, 57, who lives in Oregon, Ill., about 13 miles northeast of Dixon.Reed’s connection to Reagan extends to California as well.A 1967 graduate of Thatcher School in Ojai, Reed attended the University of California, Berkeley, during the turbulent time when Reagan was California’s governor.With a smile, Reed points to several caps on his front teeth, the result of his inadvertently getting caught up in a clash between students and police during campus anti-war protests. He said he wore a helmet and gas mask to attend classes some days.Reed, who was raised in a Republican household, also tells of how he visited a friend’s beach house north of Los Angeles one weekend in the late ’60s and watched as Reagan recited the Pledge of Allegiance on his beachfront property before removing the flag at dusk.”There wasn’t a soul around, except him,” Reed said. “I thought, `God. What a patriot. This guy is a real American.’ “The longtime Reagan fan spent five years developing the bronze sculpture project. He is relying on a few friends, who are contributing $13,000 each, and the sale of dozens of miniatures of the statue to cover its approximately $240,000 price tag.Although he owns his own foundry in Illinois, Reed traveled to Artisan Bronze Inc. in Oxnard to cast his latest work. He said the foundry, a few miles from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley, specializes in producing multicolored bronze statues.Reed’s work will anchor a downtown section of Dixon to be called Heritage Crossing, a $4-million plaza with pedestrian walkways, bicycle paths, gazebos and a picnic area.The statue will be placed along River Avenue, which includes the church where Reagan taught Sunday school; the public library with his library card on display; his school, now a museum and historical library; and Reagan’s boyhood home.”The Reagan boyhood home is maybe the main tourist attraction” in this town of 16,000 about 93 miles west of Chicago, said Dixon Mayor Jim Burke. “But there are a lot of things that tie into that legacy. This Reagan statue is another element.”

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