The 12-foot statue overlooking the Fox River at the eastern end of the Kimball Street bridge in Elgin is a familiar site to many but a real labor of love and effort for Steve Youngren.
Youngren was president of the now-disbanded Pioneer Memorial Foundation of Illinois, which raised more than $400,000 to build the memorial 10 years ago.
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On Saturday, foundation members, as well as members of the Elgin Historical Society and others, attended the rededication of the Pioneer Family Memorial, originally designed by the late Elgin sculptor Trygve Rovelstad. The memorial depicts a woman with a baby in her arms, her husband behind her and two men on either side, a tribute to the original pioneers who settled in Elgin.
"I thank God for this every day when I come to take the train to Chicago," Youngren said, who first met Rovelstad when he became his tenant in the late 1970s. "I think of all the people who contributed money and contributed effort to make this possible."
The foundation raised $456,000, and it ended up giving back $37,000 to the city of Elgin once the memorial was completed, Youngren said. Instrumental were grants secured by former state Rep. Douglas Hoeft and former state Sen. Rauschenberger.
Also in attendance were artist Guy Bellaver of St. Charles, who oversaw the construction of the 8,000-pound bronze memorial, and Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain, who called it "the visual symbol of the art community in Elgin."
Rovelstad created the original plaster sculpture. He was also a medalist sculptor who designed several military medals for the U.S. War Department, as well as the Elgin centennial commemorative half-dollar coin.
Rovelstad died at age 86 in 1990 but was unfailingly optimistic that one day the memorial would be fully built, Youngren said.
Elgin resident Rob Leonard said he's always admired the memorial. "I really think it's a wonderful thing that Elgin was able to do this," he said.