By James A. Duffy
Daily Record - May 28, 2001
MORRISTOWN — The first major change to the Green in more than 20 years, a bronze statue of a militiaman leaving his family to fight in the American Revolution, will be unveiled today as part of Memorial Day observances in the county seat.
The entire effort -— including commissioning a sculptor and transporting the finished piece from Florida to Morristown — cost two Morris Township residents a hefty $500,000, a sum they were only too willing to donate.
"It certainly was a pleasure to do," said Jackie Deskovick, who, along with her husband, Dick, made the contribution. "I hope (residents) are as thankful for it as we are about having grown up in the Morristown area."
The statue will be situated in a pool of water in a revamped version of the existing fountain on the site’s West Park Place side, said Glenn Coutts Sr., president of the Green’s Board of Trustees. It features a man, his wife with their baby in her arms, their son, a dog and a horse.
The monument, to be known as the Memorial Fountain, is the first addition to the space since the 2½-acre Green was restored between 1979 and 1980 at a cost of about $400,000, Coutts said.
"That money was raised to take the Green from a tired place that had no grass - just dirt - and no benches," he said.
The Memorial Fountain and Statue project, however, has its detractors. Even the sculptor, Robert St. Croix of West Palm Beach, Fla., conceded Friday that the size and scope of his idea were a hard sell to the Green’s trustees.
"It wasn’t an automatic green light because someone had donated a lot of money," St. Croix said. "It was a little bit of a battle. There were 13 people at the conference and I think we got about nine or 10 of them."
Initially, Dick Deskovick, who winters with his wife in Florida, visited St. Croix in his studio in December 1999. Deskovick’s original design called for a soldier, a wife and a boy standing together.
"I said, ‘What if we put a little baby in it with the soldier touching it in some tender expression, and gave the boy a dog, and tell a story, not in a suffering way, but in a sadness of him going off to war?’" St. Croix recalled.
"At that point, members of the Green thought it would be too much. But in my mind it completed the story," he said.
St. Croix produced clay models and supplied photographs along the way, making changes as the trustees suggested them. "We got to the point where everyone said: ‘Well, it looks darnn good to us.’"
Marion Harris, chairwoman of the Morris County Trust for Historic Preservation, still is not pleased, however.
"I’m not so convinced of our importance that I expect to be consulted on everything in town, but it would have been appropriate in this case," she said Friday.
"I think the essence of the opposition is this statue is overkill; that it’s pretentious even as it claims to be representing the common man; that is says more about the self-interest of the donor than it does of the subject it’s supposed to commemorate," Harris said.
St. Croix’s works range from abstracts to serious studies of famous Greek and Renaissance sculptures, to contemporary statues of children, women and sports figures. In addition to gallery pieces and other smaller items for individuals, he produces eight to 10 life-size or larger figures a year, he said.
Harris said such statues are becoming more popular, to the detriment of communities wishing to pay tribute to history.
"This comes in a context where people are suddenly going overboard to recognize their own understanding of historic events and habits, which is expressed most often in designs that people believe, incorrectly, are historically appropriate when they are simply a form of excess," she said.
Jackie and Dick Deskovick, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, said the ultimate design of the fountain and statue is a fitting tribute to the New Jersey militiamen and their families.
Jackie, who grew up in Morristown after her parents moved from New York City in the early 1920s, said the idea came up matter-of-factly during a conversation between her husband and some close friends, all of whom sit on the board of First Morris Bank.
Dick, a builder by trade who grew up in East Hanover, is chairman of the loan, personnel and building committees at the bank. He, or subcontractors secured by him, built its branches in Dover, Denville, Randolph, Madison and Morris Township, as well as its new building on the corner of Washington Street in Morristown overlooking the Green.
"A discussion came up and Dick said he didn’t like the modern Danish fountain in a town known for its Revolutionary history," his wife said. "So he came home and we talked about it. We decided the fountain wasn’t suitable for the town."