ANGOLA — A tear streaked down the face of Lou Ann Lanagan Kjosen as she was introduced before the unveiling of a statue of Baron von Steuben, the man for whom Steuben County is named.
Nonetheless, the woman who sculpted Steuben with a smile she compares to Mona Lisa was all smiles during the ceremony that would finally uncover a work of art that will stand the test of time in downtown Angola.
Lanagan was joined by more than 100 people and dignitaries of many stripes — many wearing stars and stripes — on an Independence Day dedication of the monument to the Prussian general who is credited with turning around the Continental Army that won America's freedom from British rule.
Many people who played a part in making the monument happen were honored before it being unveiled to the public for the first time Wednesday, right before the start of the Fourth of July parade in downtown Angola.
"I am at a loss for words because I am just so overwhelmed," Lanagan said. "It was a long process; we started in October. I just want to thank everyone who had a part in it."
The list was long, ranging from the Pokagon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to Gene Weicht of Weicht Funeral Home, who helped procure the base on which the monument rests in the Steuben County Courthouse lawn.
The project was the brainchild of county Commissioner Ron Smith, a retired history teacher who felt the community needed a monument to the Revolutionary War general for whom the county was named in 1837.
Smith was hoping to get the project completed over a period of four or five years, but the project was hastened after Lanagan read about it in The Herald Republican, which she receives in print in her Indianapolis-area home. The woman who grew up at Lake James, graduated from Angola High School and has gone on to become a renowned Hoosier artist, volunteered to sculpt and have cast in bronze the statue of Steuben for free.
Smith said it was serendipitous that Lanagan read about the project because her newspapers had stacked up after she and her husband, Rolan Kjosen, had been out of town on a trip. Also helping to get the project together was Lanagan's Angola classmate, businessman Chuck Sheets.
Lanagan was introduced to the crown by Angola Mayor Dick Hickman, who just a couple months earlier had presented her with the Mayor's Arts and Humanities Award to honor her soon-to-arrive contribution to the community. Hickman called the sculpture an "everlasting tribute to Baron von Steuben."
The project got started last fall. After reading a news story in The Herald Republican about Smith's quest to erect a monument to Steuben, Lanagan volunteered to pay for the statue, which was cast in a Kentucky foundry.
Lanagan has said it was a gift to the community and a memento to her father, Hermon Phillips, developer of the Pokagon Boys and Girls camps and the Lake James subdivision known as Phillips Bay.
The community had to cover the cost of its mounting base and foundation, which was about $7,500. Money is still needed to cover the cost of the base, Smith said. The Pokagon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have been instrumental in the drive to cover the cost of the base. Lanagan typically gets paid around $33,000 to create and cast a sculpture.
This is the largest work Lanagan has done and it is the first of hers to be placed outdoors. Lanagan has now created 33 busts of mainly famous Hoosiers that are on display in several states. Her first creation was of Eli Lilly, the founder of the Indianapolis drug company and the Lilly Foundation. Six copies of his bust have been made. She has also done likenesses of Hoosier notables like Gov. Otis Bowen and Sen. Richard Lugar.