Winona Lake Heritage Trail sculpture dedicated to Tony Elliott

(Terry White / Times-Union)

by Terry White, Times-Union

The second of four commissioned sculptures along the new north extension of the Winona Lake Heritage Trail (Greenway) was dedicated in a brief ceremony Tuesday.

The sculpture, titled “Winona Queen” and designed to evoke memories of the Winona Queen excursion boats that used to encircle Winona Lake, was funded in memory of, and by the family of, the late local sprint car driver Tony Elliott.

Winona Lake Town Manager Craig Allebach opened the brief ceremony with remarks about the life of Elliott, who was killed along with three other prominent local men in a plane crash in South Carolina in October 2015.

Members of the Elliott business, friends and family, including Tony’s wife Cindy, gathered at the site of the sculpture, just north of the wooden bridge crossing Cherry Creek.

Winona Art Commission member Terry White, speaking for the commission chair, Rick Swaim, who was out of town, thanked the Elliott family and gave a brief history of the various watercraft named “Winona Queen,” including the most recent one, which is currently drydocked in western Pennsylvania.

Ben Solee, the Fort Wayne-based artist who created the piece, spoke briefly about his vision to have children able to climb on the simulated wheelhouse, pretend to be piloting the boat, and generally enjoying the piece. 

Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer addressed the group briefly, praising the town of Winona Lake for having the vision for high-quality public art and also paying tribute to the Elliott family. The sculpture is accompanied by an artistic curved bench, which carries the following quote from Cindy Elliott: “Be fearless in pursuing what sets your soul on fire.”

The third sculpture, also by Solee, will be a metallic eternal flame which evokes memories of the evangelistic ministry of Billy Sunday, the evangelist who lived in Winona Lake from 1911 until his death in 1935. That piece will be dedicated at 4 p.m. May 28 and it is located behind the softball field at the north end of Grace College’s Miller Athletic Complex.

The fourth sculpture, which was previously unfunded, has now been funded by a donor and artist Steve Perry will be creating the piece, which commemorates the Miami and Potawatomi native Americans who lived in Winona Lake prior to the coming of John Hamilton, the first white settler, in 1836.

Members of the Winona Art Commission include Swaim, Joy Lohse, Al Disbro, Amanda Banks, Martha Beeson, Retha Hicks and Terry White.