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Steve Seaborn, a South Bluff resident, fabricated a sculpture to commemorate those killed in the 2004 tornado, which damaged three of his neighbors’ homes. Click here to zoom in.
Story by Tom Collins Photos by Chris Yucus
Steve Seaborn was rummaging through a salvage yard and ran across some rusting auger blades, which gave him a start: The blades formed the shape of a funnel cloud. That brought back some unpleasant memories. Seaborn lives in Peru’s South Bluff neighborhood and ran for cover when a tornado blew through on April 20, 2004.
When he emerged from his basement, three of his neighbors’ homes were damaged or destroyed — but the greatest tragedy occurred east in Utica, where nine lives were lost.
“It was difficult to believe,” recalled Seaborn, an artist and storyteller who’s played Edward Hegeler in reenactments at the Hegeler Carus Mansion. “Those people did what they should have done — went to what seemed to be a safe location — but it wasn’t.”
Seaborn, now retired and a self-taught welder, broke out his torch and decided to fashion the auger blades into a memorial sculpture to be dedicated at a ceremony next month honoring the victims.
What he conceived was a collage of broken hearts woven throughout the fused blades that represent the twister.
The hearts were fashioned from stainless steel, ensuring they not only will shine in sunlight but wills standout more brightly as the augur blades grow orange with rust.
The hearts are for the nine killed in Utica: Wayne “Danky” Ball, Helen Mahnke, Michael Miller, Carol Schultheis, Lawrence and Marian Ventrice, Jay Vezain and Beverly Wood, all in the collapse of the Milestone Restaurant and Lounge, and infant Sean Kennedy Brown, whose June death was later attributed to the tornado.
“I kind of mulled it over for a few months and thought how to make this work,” he said. “It turned out better than I thought to be honest with you.”
The sculpture will be mounted on a pillar at the memorial plaza.
Village officials have largely kept the sculpture under wraps, but village clerk Laurie Gbur said she was impressed.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Gbur said. “It was very thoughtful someone would take the time to do that for us.”