August 4, 2008

Mine Sculpture Gives Families Something They Can Touch

By Stephen Speckman Deseret News

HUNTINGTON -- While Karen Jobe Templeton was sculpting the faces of nine workers killed last August in the Crandall Canyon Mine, there was something about Kerry Allred's face that his children said wasn't quite right.

He didn't have the "Allred nose," Templeton was told.

To her, detail was everything as she built a wall to remember the miners.

"The likeness was absolutely imperative," she said. "No faces went on the wall until families'

faces said it was OK."

From November until July at her studio in Spring Glen, Templeton thought about, dreamed about and worked on the 16-foot-long wall that will feature the bronzed faces of six men who were trapped in the mine and the three who died while trying to rescue them.

"It's small, but it will be beautiful," she said about the wall.

For months she put her work and life on hold. Templeton can't remember how many times she cried along the way.

"Oh, golly -- from before it started," she said. "I cried when they left the studio. They were friends by then."

Last November when a lot of people were trying to come up with something to memorialize the miners, Templeton put in her proposal with a group in Huntington. Her own father was a miner and died when she was 2. She was particularly moved by the wives left behind.

"I'm madly in love with my husband," Templeton said. Putting herself in the shoes of those women fueled her desire to do something for them, more than just praying for them.

"You can't understand the depth of sorrow until you understand the depth of what was lost," she said.

But the wives and family members of the six miners entombed deep in the Crandall Canyon Mine after the Aug. 6 collapse never got to see or touch those men again. That aspect of their ordeal stuck with Templeton.

"I think touch is so important," the sculptor said.

And so she worked tirelessly on the wall, with its six miners on one side, the three rescuers killed Aug. 16 on the other side and in between the story of what happened. Funding for the project, estimated to have cost over $150,000, has come from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and his family, including Jon Huntsman Sr.

The wall will be placed on a manicured plot of ground near a cemetery in Huntington, just off the road that leads up to the turnoff for the mine. Scouts have helped with landscaping. A dedication ceremony is planned for next month.

After that, family, friends and loved ones of those lost will be able to touch, in great detail, the bronze likenesses of those nine men.

"It's been the best and hardest and most exciting and terrible experience," Templeton said. "It's been soul gripping."

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