As West Liberty Comes Back Together; So Does Its Landmark

As West Liberty Comes Back Together; So Does Its Landmark

The March 2nd, 2012 tornado destroyed the town's WWI Memorial. Two Sculptors felt compelled
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Piece-by-piece, that's how West Liberty rebuilds from last year's tornado.  As the city slowly comes back to life, two people are working to rebuild one of its most recognizable landmarks also piece-by-piece.

A statue of a soldier called the Doughboy stood in West Liberty for 85 years.  In just seconds, the tornado scattered pieces of the WWI Memorial across Main Street. 

"It absolutely destroyed us," said Korean War Veteran and West Liberty resident Lynn Nickell.

Nickell loves to collect history, from pictures, files, phones, and even his car.

People call the 84-year-old West Liberty's unofficial historian.

"Just outliving everybody else, I think, makes you a historian," said Nickell.

Nickell says Main Street was his childhood playground, and fondly remembers the Doughboy.

"We'd play 'Shippy go' and all types of games at night in the courthouse square and the doughboy was actually the base," said Nickell. 

When the tornado broke the statue, it crushed Nickell.

"The first few months after the tornado, I wouldn't even come up here on Main Street.  I'd drive around Main Street if I could, because it was so sad," said Nickell.

Two former Marines and sculptors near Morehead heard about the statue, and felt compelled to piece it back together.

"The Doughboy represents all veterans," said Horton.

"I don't think it's possible to have enough monuments," said Tirone.

Eddie Horton and Stephen Tirone picked up the pieces and have spent the last year repairing it.  Combined they have 60 plus years of sculpting experience.  They joke together they equal one great sculptor. 

Putting the statue back together required lifting and setting hundreds of pounds of marble.

"I had set up what I thought would be a workable system of chain hoists, ropes, straps to move two, three-hundred pounds," said Tirone.

"You had to be dead on, because if you don't," said Horton.

"The first speck being off would throw the next piece off, and then all of a sudden," said Tirone.

"Each piece is off and once you get all up through there it's going to be, it's not going to be in alignment," said Horton.

Nickell can't want for the statue to return.

"It's going to be sweeter than it was," said Nickell.

The sculptors aren't sure when the statue will return to West Liberty.  They recommend it go inside, so rain doesn't open up cracks. 

They want to make a bronze replica to go outside.  They estimate 6-months for that project. 


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