BELMAR, NJ — Belmar’s beloved “Doughboy” will soon be leaving town.
The 88-year-old statue will be removed from its base in Memorial Field and transported about 45 minutes away westbound to the Seward Johnson Atelier in Hamilton, where it will be repaired — nearly a year after a fundraising campaign was launched to fund the effort.
Through a groundswell of community support, some $18,000 has been raised for the restoration project, which will be undertaken at the Johnson atelier. Known for its highly acclaimed work at the Grounds for Sculpture, the specialized workshop was chosen by the borough from among four bids.
“We're going to take the statue down and bring it to (outside) Trenton, where it will be repaired correctly,” said Belmar Borough Council President Brian Magovern in announcing the news at the governing body’s March 6 meeting.
Erected in 1930 to recognize 102 borough residents who served in World War I, the statue of the iconic infantryman was damaged in September 2016 when unidentified vandals broke off a portion of its rifle and loosened the figure from its base.
The Belmar Historical Society (BHS), which has been coordinating the fundraising and repair effort, is working with the Johnson atelier to set a date for the statue’s transport.
“Many people have contributed to the effort and we want to make sure we let everyone know when this (move) will happen,” said BHS secretary Pat O’Keefe.
In an ironic twist, the Johnson atelier already has a history with the Belmar “The Spirit of the Doughboy” monument.
In 1994 when the atelier was repairing the 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 it now will be used to repair Belmar’s Doughboy.
“We called it the ‘Lending a Hand’ project,” O’Keefe said. “And since they still have the cast, it makes it easier to repair our Doughboy.”
Once the life-size statue is restored and returned to Belmar, a light and security camera will be placed on the treasured monument.
In addition, the “Buy a Brick” program — for the memorial patio around the statue — is another ongoing effort by the Belmar Historical Society.
For more information on either effort, call Belmar Historical Society at 908-309-3380. Donations also can be mailed to Belmar Historical Society, P.O. Box A, Belmar, NJ 07719.
The Doughboy Statue: Standing Tall for Nearly Nine Decades
Erected in 1930 by the American Legion of Belmar to recognize 102 borough residents who served in World War I, “The Spirit of the Doughboy” monument is one of eight such monuments in New Jersey.
Visible from the Route 35 bridge in what is commonly known as Doughboy Park on West Railroad Avenue, the sculpture depicts a World War I infantryman advancing through the stumps and barbed wire of “No Man’s Land" with a rifle in his left hand and a grenade in his raised right hand.
The last time the Belmar Historical Society helped the borough raise funds to repair and bronze the statue was in 2004, with a rededication in November 2006, according to records compiled by the volunteer organization.
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