13 Feb Fundraiser brings statue of Philly WWII veteran closer to reality

Friday night saw the holding of a beef-and-beer fundraiser for what was unquestionably a very worthy cause – a campaign to have a statue erected in Philadelphia of World War II veteran William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, whose experiences were immortalized in the hit HBO series Band of Brothers.

Born in South Philadelphia, Guarnere lost a leg in conflicts during his time in Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division. Sure enough, the eight-foot-high bronze military sculpture designed by Chad Fisher depicts Wild Bill at an older age, minus crutches for support – a decision described by the sculptor as “important”.

Fisher, who has asked for only $65,000 to cover the material, explained: “I reached out to the family to see if they had any thoughts on doing a statue. They were already considering it.” He said that the family had told him they were “very proud that Wild Bill was part of World War II and that he lost a leg over there.”

A miniature model of the statue greeted guests at the fundraiser, which was hosted by the Guarnere family and City Councilman David Oh at the German banquet facility in Torresdale, Canstatter Volksfest-Verein, which attracted about 200 people in all.

First to suggest the idea of a statue to her family was Guarnere’s granddaughter Debi Rafferty, who called Oh to get the creation of the military sculpture underway. She joked to guests: “I’m the big mouth”, also noting the irony of such a fundraiser for an American World War II hero being held in a German hall.

Although Rafferty has expressed a wish for the statue to be erected at the visitor-friendly spot of Penn’s Landing, other sites have been suggested, including University City, Center City and South Philadelphia. As long as there are no hitches, the sculpture is expected to be unveiled on June 6.

Meanwhile, the great man’s 68-year old son Gene Guarnere commented: “My father did everything for Philly.” Retired Col. Tim Williams was keynote speaker at an event that saw plenty of noise from the crowd in response to such acts as drum corps and members of the Eagles cheerleading squad, all very befitting for a man who, said Rafferty, “made more noises than a slot machine.”

The military sculpture will cost about $80,000 in total, with Fisher set to get started as soon as sufficient funds have been raised. $40,000 had been raised by the family prior to the fundraiser, which was expected to raise as much as $15,000 by night’s end.

We can only salute such efforts here at Big Statues, and hope all of the money-raising efforts for a Wild Bill statue will be a great success.

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