Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yesterday Was a Good Day to be Clio

Rusty Brenner and Clio: February 11, 2017
It's been quite a journey, but our Clio now has her hand back.

One day last June, Steve and I were at the Caddo Parish courthouse and noticed that Clio, the Muse of History, part of the Caddo Parish Confederate monument, had a broken hand. It was lying at her feet in several pieces.

The monument was designed by Texas sculptor Frank Teich for the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early 1900s during the monument building phase of that organization, and now it has been restored by another Texan, Rusty Brenner of Texas Cemetery Restoration in Dallas, Texas.

As soon as the damaged monument was discovered, the alarm went out and the UDC president, Jackie Nichols, was notified.

An investigation was done, cameras were checked, and the culprit was found. A transient trumpet player had climbed over the decorative wrought iron fence, climbed up the steps, climbed atop the busts of Confederate dignitaries, and either pulled himself up with Clio's arm or rested his foot on it while he played. The arm was broken and her hand shattered.

I was dispatched to the security office in the basement of the courthouse to retrieve the pieces of the hand and it was a pretty dismal sight:

Clio's hand as retrieved from security office: June 2016

To add insult to injury, not long after Clio's arm was broken, a vandal threw paint on the monument.

Paint vandalism: 2016

The monument is owned by the Shreveport Chapter #237 United Daughters of the Confederacy and stands on a parcel of land donated to the chapter for use in perpetuity by the Caddo Parish Police Jury. As the police worked their dual investigation into the vandalism, the chapter immediately began collecting estimates and fundraising for the monument repair.

Enter Rusty Brenner of Texas Cemetery Restoration. UDC Chapter president Jackie Nichols found out that Rusty working in Shreveport's historic Oakland cemetery on a couple of large restoration projects and she had him look at Clio's hand; at the time of Rusty's examination, the paint vandalism had not yet occurred.

The arm had been previously broken and poorly repaired and Rusty really wanted to repair the arm properly, stabilizing it, and using more advanced materials than what was used in previous repairs.

Clio: June 2016
I met Rusty at the monument on a blazing hot June morning. I opened the cardboard box and he examined the pieces of the hand and then he scrambled over the fence and examined the entire monument up close. Rusty is a good ol' Texas boy with an easygoing manner and a serious dedication and love for his work.  He fell in love as a teenager with the art of the craftsman while working with his father who had a monument company in Crocket, Texas. By the time he was nineteen he decided to form his own company for the purpose of preservation and restoration of historic cemeteries and monuments, and now his reputation is pure gold.

While Rusty compiled his estimate, the UDC got busy fundraising. Soon a very generous, anonymous donor stepped forward to finance the lion's share of the restoration which would include not just Clio, but also the paint damage. The donor wanted to honor his Confederate ancestor who fought at the Battle of Mansfield and who very likely had attended the monument dedication in 1905.

After all the bids were compiled, the UDC accepted Rusty Brenner's offer and so work to clean and restore the monument began. The TCR crew rented a cherry-picker lift-type vehicle to reach the top of the monument and treated it with a bio-cide which literally works from the inside out, over a period of weeks, to eliminate the algae and discoloration of the monument caused by street traffic, trees, and other agents in the air.

"You see that sort of pink color on the busts," Rusty pointed out to me yesterday. "That will disappear over the next few weeks and get rid of the discoloration" on the monument.

As for the broken arm, he reassembled the hand and then in preparation for reinstalling it on the arm, used a system of braces and clamps while pins and adhesive in the arm hardened.

Clio: February 11, 2017

Then the hand was reapplied.

Clio: February 11, 2017.

By the end of the day yesterday, Clio was once again intact.

Clio: February 11, 2017

As I said, the cleaning process is ongoing as the bio-cide leeches out the staining and discoloration, but Clio is on her way to being almost as good as new. The scroll that was once in her left hand was broken years ago and there is a poor repair job on that left arm. Rusty says he knows a carver that could recreate the scroll and perhaps even redo that entire arm with a scroll for better stability.  There are options.

But that takes more money.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy is committed to the maintenance and restoration of the monument and thanks to their work, the fabulous donors, and Rusty Brenner, it was a good day to be Clio!

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