Group eager to begin restoring Paul Bunyan statue

Posted April 20, 2009, at 9:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — J. Normand Martin has volunteered to repaint the city’s now-famous Paul Bunyan statue four times during the past half-century.

This year, the 82-year-old said he’s finally willing to let someone else take a crack at it.

“I’m getting too old,” he said Monday at the base of the Main Street statue that he helped create.

Martin is part of a group of volunteers — the Paul Bunyan Restoration Committee — who are embarking on the task of restoring Bangor’s most-photographed landmark. The statue, which turned 50 years old this February, has not been touched up in more than 10 years, but most agree that Bunyan has taken a beating.

“He’s a little shabby,” admitted Bangor Mayor Gerry Palmer. “But, if every one of our citizens had a smile like his, we’d be a better place.”

Beginning later this month and into May, Bunyan will get a fresh coat of paint and some minor fiberglass repairs. He’ll also see that his peavey, or log roller, is fixed. And for good measure, an engineer has volunteered to climb inside the hollow statue to make sure Bunyan is structurally sound.

Bangor Parks and Recreation director Tracy Willette said the volunteer group’s timing could not be better.

“They have a great deal of enthusiasm and experience,” Willette said. “I can’t wait for them to get started.”

Jeanne Savoy, one of the leaders of the restoration committee, began soliciting support for the restoration effort earlier this year.

“No one has said no so far,” Savoy said.

The city donated a small amount of money to ensure the project is successful, but the rest has come from private donations, both in money and in services. Joining Savoy on the committee are Martin, Eric Baxter, David Whalen, John Browning, Dan Higgins and Justin Sass.

“We want to thank everyone who is committed to restoring this beautiful man,” Savoy said.

Bunyan was created 50 years ago to coincide with the city’s 125th birthday celebration. Martin, who was working for a local advertising agency at the time, agreed to sculpt a model for the statue. His 22-inch model was the template for the 31-foot statue that has graced Bass Park ever since.

“It was a fun project, but it was never meant to be there indefinitely,” Martin said. “He’s survived quite well for the past 50 years.”

The restoration committee wants to make sure Bunyan is around for his 100th birthday.

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