Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise
September 08, 2000
By Stanley White

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LANCASTER -- It was a perfect day. The small boy looked happy to be there. And all the adults were happy too, seeing him back where he belonged. Johnny Appleseed returned to the region of his birth, yesterday, in his familiar form, but in bronze, reattached to the polished granite base.

The unveiling of the recast Johnny Appleseed statue took place in bright sunlight at 10 a.m. Friday in front of the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2, Lancaster.

"We couldn't do it without the support of the community leaders," said Tom Meyers, chairman of the Tourism Committee for the Johnny Apple Trail Association, introducing Ed Manzi, president of Fidelity Bank. Fidelity, together with Asa Cole, publisher of the Sentinel & Enterprise, spearheaded fund-raising efforts to recast the statue in bronze after the first one, cast in polyurethane resin, was toppled by the elements last winter.

"This was a great cause and we were happy to be part of it," Manzi said. "Johnny Appleseed is a really very positive aspect of local culture and history, and also has regional and national prominence. It only makes sense to sponsor and promote it."

"The Sentinel & Enterprise is delighted to be part of this project. It was wonderful to see all the children enjoy it," added Cole.

Sensitively sculpted by distinguished artist Phil Cote, 57, of Sterling - who grew up in Leominster and played on the site of the Chapman farm as a boy - the statue has captured the minds and hearts of all who've seen it.

State Rep. Mary Jane Simmons, (D-Leominster) sponsored the bill that made Johnny Appleseed the official folk hero of Massachusetts. "My kids go to the Johnny Appleseed School, so I thought, 'you know, Johnny Appleseed was somebody; he should be something again,' " she said.

Simmons was also instrumental in finding the original variety of apple trees that John Chapman grew, Rambos, and planting seedlings at the Visitor Center.

Shown as a young farm boy, with a tear in his pants, a frog in his pocket, and the character in his face which has kept his name alive for two centuries as the man who helped cultivate the American wilderness, this statue and this commission have been one of Cote's favorites.

"It's all about telling a story. Art creates a bridge between people, Cote said. "I'm glad that the people seem to feel what I feel about it. Mr Cole and I have something in common. He is a storyteller in newspapers and I am telling a story with my work. So I would like to give Mr. Cole a model of the new Johnny Appleseed statue, the first casting out of the mold."

Cole accepted the gift with evident pleasure. "Thank you," he said. "This is a complete surprise."