Hatteberg's People - Saving Miss Liberty In Rural Kansas

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, when vandals damaged a replica of the Statue of Liberty in a roadside park South of Smith Center, help wasn't far away. Edith and Jack McClain loved the old statue and decided they had to do something. They aren't the first. The statue has had many friends.

It was 1951 when a happy group of Smith County residents stood with the eight-foot tall Statue of Liberty replica. Christian Kalbfleisch, a Canadian who immigrated to the area, was inspired by his new country and purchased "Lady Liberty." Three hundred of them were made by a Chicago company for the Boy Scouts. Kalbfleisch donated his to a local scout group.

Now, the statue is gone. Vandalism took its toll. She is somewhere, just not yet back to her original spot. The McClains are keeping the newly-restored Miss Liberty on their property until Spring when it will once again take its rightful place.

"She was so injured that somebody had to do something," said Edith McClain. "We just felt like we had to step forward and take care of her. She is just a beautiful lady."

Since 1951, the statue has endured vandalism year after year. Each time, community members came forward to lovingly restore it. The McClains' scrapbook details all the times folks have pitched in to repair Miss Liberty. In the latest round of vandalism, which is what prompted the statue to be removed, Smith Center resident Stu Conaway at the Mace Body Shop volunteered to help the McClains with the restoration of the aging icon.

"She has had her face beat in and shot in the back with a shotgun twice, arm broke off and you just hate to see it. The people would come in and when she's here they would say, 'I wondered where she went?' They all say, 'I wish we would catch them in the act,"' said Conaway.

That would be nice. Meantime, waiting for Spring so the plaques can be replaced and keeping the area clean is what the McClain's mission is now.

"The view from the hill is beautiful, especially in the spring and summer time. You can see the Solomon Valley and from that hill you can see three or four miles to the south," said Jack McClain.

It's a view that would not be complete until Miss Liberty is once again on guard, as she has been for over 60 years.

"It's where she belongs, we just have to keep supporting her and take care of her," said Edith McClain.

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