The City of Waukegan memorializes famed author Ray Bradbury with an annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival and Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival, a park, walking tour, creative contest, star on Sheridan Road, and even a downtown establishment named Green Town Tavern. However, the City does not have an outdoor statue to represent one of its most famous natives.
A committee of community members has begun working to raise funds to honor Bradbury by commissioning a bronze statue for the downtown area. Locations being considered include the Waukegan Public Library, the corner of Washington and Genesee Streets, and other downtown locations.
The committee is chaired by Richard Lee, Executive Director of the Waukegan Public Library. In 2006, Lee began looking into the costs and details of designing a Bradbury sculpture in the City. “Erecting a Bradbury statue in Bradbury’s hometown has always been of interest to me,” said Lee. “Not only because Bradbury should hold a place of honor in Waukegan, but also because Bradbury’s passion for reading and learning would be an inspiration to the community.”
Bradbury lived in Waukegan until he was 13, when his family moved to Los Angeles. Throughout his life, he remembered his hometown in many of his writings including the 1957 “Dandelion Wine”, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1962, and his last novel in 2006, “Farewell Summer”. He died in 2012 at the age of 91.
Last year, Lee traveled to California to oversee the packing and shipping of a large portion of Bradbury’s estate, his entire personal book collection, which Bradbury left to the library when he passed away. “I loved opening the library door and looking in and listening to all my friends in there,” said Bradbury. “All the books talked to me, they all whispered. The stacks were dark and mysterious and wonderful.”
Bradbury supported the Waukegan Public Library throughout his entire career, and, until health issues impeded, he made frequent trips to his hometown. He sponsored the Library’s Creative Contest for 30 years, personal hand-signing the winner certificates each year. And, in 2005, Bradbury permitted the library to use his name and present an annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival around Halloween, his favorite time of year.
The project was initiated last month when community activist Hank Bogdala and his wife Beverly contacted Lee and they all agreed that Bradbury should have a place of honor in the City. The envisioned statue is a bronze work based on Bradbury’s likeness.
This will be the second memorial statue to be erected in Waukegan. A tribute to Jack Benny sits at the corner of Genesee and Clayton Streets in Jack Benny plaza. Benny grew up in Waukegan until he began touring the nation as an entertainer. The Benny statue took over two years to complete at a total cost of $55,000, $48,000 of which was fundraised. The remaining cost was given by Senator Aldine GeoKaris.
Meetings are scheduled once per month and are open to the public. The next meeting will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 26, in the Waukegan Public Library board room at 128 North County Street. If you are interested in contributing to the project or joining the committee, contact Richard Lee at (847) 623-2041, ext. 250. It is intended that the statue will be fully funded by charitable donations and sponsors. All donations are tax deductible.