The soldier atop the cenotaph in Elmira – currently missing in action – will be replaced this spring by a sturdier doppelganger.
Twice vandalized and repaired, the marble statue has also suffered from exposure to the elements after almost nine decades of watching over the war memorial. Removed last month, the soldier is now being replicated in bronze by sculptor Timothy Schmalz, an Elmira native.
“He’ll be recreating the existing soldier,” explained Larry Devitt, Woolwich’s director of recreation and facilities.
The new statue is part of some planned upgrades for the cenotaph site, the scale of which will depend on funding from Veterans Affairs Canada, he added. The cost for replacing the soldier has been estimated at $35,000.
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While the original statue, in place since 1923, has been expertly repaired following acts of vandalism, years of exposure to the elements have taken a toll on the soft marble material, said Clayton Ash, the keeper of all things historical for the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Elmira.
“People who know about these things say it’s badly eroded. It looks OK to look at, but I’m not an expert on these things. The idea is to replace it in bronze.”
The granite base, along with granite additions installed to commemorate those who died in the Second World War and the Korean War, remain in good shape. The soldier was crafted from Carrera marble in Italy.
The original cenotaph was unveiled on Aug. 5, 1923, having been built for $1,200. The Second World War memorial, added at a cost of $800, was dedicated in 1957. The Korean War portion was dedicated in 1988 at a cost of $744.
“Soft white Italian marble was a good material from which to quickly carve a memorial figure, but this material is subject to deterioration. No one in 1923 would have thought about the ravages of acid rain or road salt blowing on the wind to erode a statue that is 15 feet high,” Ash notes in a history of the cenotaph.
The marble figure is now in storage. The Legion has requested the original soldier be placed in the Woolwich Memorial Centre.