BELMAR, NJ — Standing tall and glistening under the sun in all his glory, Belmar’s “Spirit of the Doughboy” statue is back atop his pedestal in Memorial Field.
He was greeted this morning, July 27, by some 50 people who gathered in the small park under the Route 35 bridge awaiting his return from the Seward Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, where he has spent the last three months undergoing a major restoration project.
Nearly two years ago, unidentified vandals broke off the left hand and rifle of the monument, which depicts a World War I infantryman. It was erected in 1930 to honor the 102 men and women from Belmar who served during that war.
Although the homecoming was delayed by about a half-hour — the truck bringing it home stuck in beach-bound traffic — attendees waited patiently talking under a canopy, enjoying refreshments and perusing the Belmar Historical Society’s treasures from World War I, including photos and news clipping from the dedication 88 years ago.
Many of them were part of a communitywide fundraising drive that raised some $18,000 this past year for the Doughboy’s restoration project.
During the wait, Belmar Historical Society president Spencer Heulitt addressed the assemblage of borough residents, officials and local veterans. “I am proud to say that Belmar doesn’t forget how we got here — through the sacrifice of our veterans and Armed Forces,” said Heulitt, whose father is one of the World War I veterans honored on the statue’s base. “We have to remember to honor those who protect our way of life.”
Not long after his remarks when the truck rolled onto West Railroad Avenue, it was time for the celebration not only to begin, but unfold — step by step.
After being unstrapped , unwrapped, rewrapped and then attached to the hook of a crane, the 300-pound life-size monument was lifted and carefully placed on its base.
“The Doughboy has returned home,” said Susan Dunsmoor, project manager of the atelier, which ironically has a history with Belmar’s iconic statue.
In 1995 when the atelier was repairing the exact Doughboy statue created by sculptor Ernest Moore Viquesney that stands in Fair Haven, its craftsmen came to Belmar to cast the left hand and rifle that was broken from that pressed copper statue — similar damage that would be done to the Belmar statue 22 years later in that act of vandalism.
The Johnson atelier saved that cast and used it for this latest repair — and performed by the same craftsman, Takeo Shimuzi, who restored the Fair Haven statue.
“All the parts were there for you,” Dunsmoor said. “So Takeo did his magic and brought it back,” she said. “It’s as if it were new again.”
Watch the Doughboy's return to his pedestal here: