LACONIA — Keewakwa Abenaki Keenahbeh — "The Defiant One" — who has stood over Opechee Park for the past three decades is listing.
"He's getting tired," remarked City Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who as mayor dedicated the wood sculpture in 1984 and with friend and fellow councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) has tended to it ever since.
"It started to lean (backwards) last year," Bolduc said yesterday. "I've been watching it all winter." The statue, which was carved from a red oak felled on Cobble Mountain in Gilford, stands 36 feet tall and weighs 12 tons. He explained that it is held on a stone plinth by a half dozen steel rods four or five in length. "Carpenter ants got into it and ate around the rods, causing it to lean," he said, adding that he has not seen sign of ants since spraying the base with insecticide a few years ago.
Keewakwa Abenaki Keenahbeh is one of 74 "Whispering Giants" fashioned by Peter Wolf Toth, a Hungarian artist, that stand in all 50 states of the United States and several provinces of Canada to celebrate and honor Native Americans. Toth, who fled Hungary before occupying Soviet forces in 1956, told "The Citizen" in 2009 that he'd "worked for people that have faced injustice and it has always been my dream to utilize my God-given talent to specifically help the American Indians."
Each of his statues seeks to capture the appearance and character of the tribe that inhabited the area where they stand.
In addition, in 2008 he completed a statute of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary who introduced Christianity to the Magyar people, which stands in Delegyhaza, a village near Budapest known for its nudist beach.
Bolduc said that he intends to seek advice from Toth, who resides in Edgewater, Florida, about how best to correct the lean and stabilize and preserve the statue. He said that every couple of years he and Hamel borrow the bucket truck from the Department of Public Works and stain and varnish the statue, but said "now we've got to straighten him up."