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Mountaineer statue to mark 50 years in front of Mountainlair; cast has home in Kingwood

KINGWOOD –  The Mountaineer statue, standing in front of the West Virginia University Mountainlair, will celebrate 50 years in October.

Then-Gov. Arch Moore officially dedicated the statue in October 1971.  

The cast used to create the Mountaineer statue is in Kingwood. Retired Kingwood attorney Neil Reed played a role in the creation of both the Mountaineer and the plaster cast that now stands looking to the west toward Sheidow Bronze and Morgantown.

“The statue was requested by Abraham Tomehim on Sept. 28, 1928.” Reed said. “The Mountain Honorary Student Group considered the project and approved it in October 1968.”

Making the statue a reality took some time.

Reed said to raise money to construct the statue, hats were passed down the aisles at WVU football games.  The group eventually raised $20,000.  Once the money was raised, a call went out to Sheidow Bronze asking for a recommendation for an artist to design the Mountaineer.  Reed said artist Donald DeLue  was chosen for the project.

“Some have suggested that Jerry West’s face was used for the statue, but I think the sculptor, Donald DeLue, drew on several images he researched at the WVU main library,” Stephen Reed said. “His work can be seen in D.C. and Gettysburg (Pa.) in the form of Civil War soldiers in both places. We were fortunate to get a sculptor of his national reputation to do the statue. “

The Mountaineer statue cast at Hilary Bright’s Law office in Kingwood.

“He (DeLue) went to the library in Morgantown to see what a Mountaineer looked like,” Neil Reed said. “He made an 18-inch-tall plaster statue.  It originally had an eagle but it was removed because it would have been at a height someone could have run into it.”

He said next came the model that would be used for casting.

“Don wanted $25,000 to do the work,” Reed said. “We told him we only had $20,000, so he agreed to $20,000”

He said a stone was needed to stand the statue on.  The late Jack Boyle searched for one.  It had to be 8-foot long and 4-foot high.

“He finally found a stone,” Reed said. “He located it on a piece of property near Pringle Run in the Albright area.”

He said Sheidow Bronze was asked to cast the statue.

“Russell Sheidow was my neighbor and friend,” Reed said. “I asked him if he would cast the statue.  He did it at no cost.  Our next problem was what would happen if the cast was damaged.  Sheidow didn’t have room to store the plaster cast that was used to make the statue.”

Reed said the Teets family’s Americana Museum in Terra Alta housed the cast until the space was no longer available. 

“We moved it to the Donovan farm in a hay wagon loaded with straw,” Reed said. “It was pulled by a pickup truck.”

He said when the time came to move the cast back, it was moved in four pieces and was stored in the Kingwood Chamber of Commerce.  Reed said Kingwood resident Amy Snyder patched the cast and painted it. 

“It stood facing east,” Reed said. “He said the casting was later moved into attorney Hillary Bright’s building and is now facing west toward Sheidow and Morgantown.”

He said once the casting was in place it was repaired by Friends of the University.

“It was painted bronze two weeks ago by Charles Wotring,” Reed said. “He’s looking out on the sidewalk and he looks pretty fancy.”

“The Mountain Honorary was the student group behind getting the Mountaineer statue.  Dad and Gordon Thorn were active in the Mountain Honorary as students in the early 1950s,” Steven Reed said. “Gordon was also a longtime advisor to the group once he returned as WVU’s vice president for Student Affairs.”

“Thus the statue was a real team-effort with large and small donors all pitching in to make it happen.  It has stood the test of time, standing daily in all four seasons in front of the Mountainlair, and will celebrate its 50th birthday this October.  But I think it’s good to get the story out now, so that people can appreciate the background this whole year, ” Stephen Reed said. “Gordon Thorn wrote a book about the statue.”