Ed Pickett (U.S. Air Force, Canton, Tx.) Sculptor
Juan Herrera (U.S. Army, Canton, Tx.) Posed for Statue
The Veterans Memorial
(The Kneeling Soldier Statue)
“Red Montgomery asked me to come to a meeting they were having at the courthouse, about statues,” said Ed Pickett. “Red and 25 members of his family were at the courthouse. They were interested in getting a Veteran’s Memorial started in Canton. They wanted to pay homage to our soldiers. I designed the kneeling soldier and was looking for a veteran to pose for my sculptor.
I used a human form only to get measurements and not of the actual person. I use the live person as the model for the statue. We wanted a veteran. Steve White was a soldier we lost and his wife, Denise graciously donated $10,000 up front. For a waitress, that is a lot of money. Her son wanted to be the model. He was about 15-or-16 at the time but was too small for the model.
I asked around and someone told me about Juan Herrera, a veteran, and he agreed to pose for the monument. He also had the military equipment. I am very detail oriented so I wanted to make sure every button matched.“
“My wife used to bartend up at the VFW next to the interstate,” said Juan Herrera. “They had a meeting and they were talking about the Veterans Memorial around 2005. TexDot donated the land and they were looking for a veteran from the county to pose for the “Kneeling Soldier” Memorial on their Plaza. My wife volunteered me. I knew most of the other veterans involved. So, I agreed. The Memorial contacted me and asked me to get in touch with Ed Pickett.
I sat out in the ditch in front of the Winery for a couple of days, for several hours, in the heat, in full gear in one position, taking pictures. Ed had to have very specific photos. They even included the wrinkles in my pants leg down to the boots. Very detailed. Ed needed more pictures and a mold of my face, so he could make a cast. Off and on I spent over ten years working on the “Kneeling Soldier.” They did an excellent job on the statue, and I was proud to take my wife and kids to visit.
The statue is not about me. It is about the fallen soldiers. That is what the whole memorial is about. It is for my buddies that are no longer with us.
I can proudly say Van Zandt County has the nicest Veterans Memorial than any I have ever seen.
From a model to a Bronze Statue
“We start with a framework that we have to put the clay on next,” said Pickett. “On a double life-size, like the “Kneeling Soldier”, we started with a big chunk of foam. We sculpted it to a certain point and then we put the clay on. The clay weighed 3,500 lbs. The clay dries out so we had to keep it wet.
Then, we start the details in the clay. I used a lot of kids to help me with the details on the statue. We had a lot of fun with them on this statue. Once we got all the clay on and got it right, we next put rubber over that. Then we put plaster over that to make a mold. Then we take the wax inside the mold. We take the wax and put it into plaster, and melt the wax out and pour the bronze in. It is then cut into about 150 pieces, and welded all back together.
We heat it all to put the coloring on it. It is very time consuming. From the initial posing to the finished bronze statue it took about 10 years. We started the statue and we ran out of money. That is the reason it initially took so long. Getting it to the bronze stage requires a lot of money. The statue cost roughly $80,000. We couldn’t get to the clay stage until we had the money because the clay kept coming apart or drying up. I first built it in carucate clay which dried out. We did it twice.
Once I got the money to proceed it was less than six months to do the actual clay work and got it to the bronze stage. We got the money from everybody in town. We begged and begged. But we had some great people to help us out.” For Ed, the “Kneeling Soldier” was a passion of love for the military. In November of 2016 the final Placement of the Bronze Statue on the Veterans Memorial Plaza was finished.
From the vision of Red Montgomery and others to the skill of sculptor Ed Pickett to the many hours of posing from Juan Herrera the vision to pay homage to Veterans is complete. Over ten years from conception to the final placement is a tribute to the vision and hard work of a great number of workers, veterans, volunteers and donations to create a wonderful statue and a monument to all Veterans of Van Zandt County.