When longtime downtown Leesburg business owner and community steward Stanley Caulkins died earlier this year, many throughout Leesburg and Loudoun County felt the sting of grief and loss.
For Diane Caney, owner of Sunset Hills Vineyard near Purcellville and friend and customer of Caulkins for 20-plus years, it kept her up at night. So, she began to put pen to paper to draw up a way to honor the man who had touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, and whose dedication to Leesburg can be seen in everything from the airport terminal that bears his name to the many stories and fond recollections shared following his death.
“Everybody could tell you their own Stanley story about how he impacted them in a positive way. He was known for selflessness, humility, dedication to the town,” Caney recalled. “He put the town’s growth above his own personal interest. How do you capture all the emotion we all felt to celebrate Stanley, so I did this sketch.”
She brought the sketch with her to Caulkins’ memorial service and showed it to his many friends from the VFW, Rotary Club and in town government. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Caney was told that to pursue a sculpture project like this in Leesburg she should connect with the town’s Commission on Public Art. They then connected her with members of Friends of Leesburg Public Arts, some of whom also serve on COPA. As a nonprofit, FOLPA could help with fundraising for the sculpture project, which is expected to cost a significant amount of money. The foundry process alone is expected to top $35,000.
FOLPA connected Caney with Lovettsville-based artist Jeff Hall, who has won several noteworthy commissions. These include a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., in Denver, CO; the only statute of Turkish President Mustafa Ataturk that sits on U.S. soil; and the marble bust of former Vice President Dan Quayle displayed in the U.S. Capitol. As a young artist, he apprenticed at the National Cathedral with Frederick Hart, the sculptor behind the famed The Three Soldiers statue in Washington, DC.
Hall did not know Caulkins personally, but he said he enjoys the foray back into public work. He has worked with Caney to incorporate different things that were important in his life into the bronze sculpture, including his signature jeweler’s magnifying loupe, a railroad pocket watch, and other features that display his association with his church, the VFW, Rotary, and his time spent in the military on a B52 bomber in the waning days of World War II in the European Theater. It’s been a team effort in pulling the sculpture project together, with many friends and colleagues of Caulkins bringing forward items of importance to him to incorporate into the sculpture, from penny loafers or a piece of prized jewelry.
The sculpture portrays Caulkins seated with his arm over the bench, in the same welcoming manner friends and patrons of Caulkins Jewelers would associate him with. Downtown visitors will be able to sit down next to him, and Caney said she believes the statue, much like the longtime jewelry store, will become a destination in its own right. The likeness to Caulkins is uncanny.
“Classical figure sculpture is timeless. When it’s a good likeness it can be appreciated 1,000 years from now,” Hall said.
Although Caulkins was best known for being hunched his work, Caney said the decision to have him seated on a bench was to make it more “approachable” and also to tie into an existing architectural element in the downtown. Hall even found bench slats like the ones used elsewhere in Leesburg.
While it’s been a community effort in deciding what the sculpture should look like, it will take an even bigger effort to bring the sculpture to reality. A fundraising drive is underway, with all donations going through FOLPA. Caney encourages those with their own affections for Caulkins to contribute even a small amount to bring the project to fruition.
“The goal is to have small change. Small donations from people who loved him—that is the spirit of this,” Caney said.
It’s the largest private project that’s been brought to FOLPA to date, FOLPA board member Barbara Wilson said. “Diane really has put her heart into this and dedication to Stanley’s character,” she added. “It’s been first and foremost in all of her dealings which is unique.”
Once the funds have been raised, it will take Hall about seven to nine months to sculpt the piece.
As the fundraising process begins in earnest, Caney’s goal from day one remains the same.
“How do you channel sadness into something where Stanley still lives,” Caney said.
“Through art,” Wilson quickly replied.
For more information on the sculpture project and to donate via PayPal, go to leesburgpublicarts.org. Checks may also be made out to FOLPA and mailed to Stanley Caulkins Memorial Project, 312-F East Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176. All donations are tax deductible.