Statue of war-end’s kiss to be raised in Royal Oak

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

A 25-foot-tall sculpture depicting the famous photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in celebration of the end of World War II is coming to Royal Oak on Monday.

Embracing Peace will stay for six months at Memorial Park as part of an effort to raise money for the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial.

“We’re really excited to have it here,” said Judy Davids, a community engagement specialist for Royal Oak. “To us it just represents the euphoria that surrounds the day that Americans found out that World War II had finally come to an end. It’s fun and it’s big. It’s quite the show stopper.”

Debi Hollis, head of the project said she hopes the sculpture will generate buzz and the donations needed to complete the memorial, a $3 million project planned for Memorial Park at Woodward and 13 Mile.

“This is an awe-inspiring piece,” Hollis said of the visiting sculpture. “We’re working with the city of Royal Oak on a bunch of events just to publicize it, engage the public and ... raise funds for the project.”

The state-recognized memorial project at the park’s northeast corner will include nine bronze statues, a donor walk and a gathering space. It will honor the state’s role in the war abroad and at home, organizers say.

The statue will travel from New Jersey and arrive at its destination around 9 a.m. Monday, Hollis said. A crane will lift it into position around 11 a.m.

“That’s the moment,” Hollis said. “That’s the wow factor. We invite the public to come.”

The sculpture is one of four American artist Seward Johnson created depicting the Life magazine photograph Alfred Eisenstaedt took April 14, 1945, the day Japan surrendered in World War II. Three permanent versions of the sculpture sit in Sarasota, Florida; San Diego; and Normandy, France.

Paula Stoeke, curator for the Seward Johnson Atelier in New Jersey and California, said a mutual acquaintance suggested the collaboration.

“I do believe that something of this scale is bound to turn heads and attract attention to what’s happening at the memorial site,” Stoeke said.

“We also hope ... it provokes conversations between the generations. We find that sometimes the grandfathers will tell their stories about their life experience. It tends to make history real for the youngest generations.”

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