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The bully spirit: Theodore Roosevelt statue unveiled in Medora, N.D.

Donors Tom and Maria Ovenson Schock, left, sculptor John Lopez, middle, listen to former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer's remarks on unveiling the new Theodore Roosevelt statue Friday, Oct. 27, in Medora, N.D. (Grady McGregor / Forum News Service)1 / 3
The artist John Lopez, donors, members of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and other people who helped make the statue gathered around the statue on Friday morning, Oct. 27, in Medora, N.D. (Grady McGregor / Forum News Service)2 / 3
The new bronze Theodore Roosevelt statue stands outside the Old Town Hall Theater in downtown Medora, N.D. on Friday, Oct. 27. (Grady McGregor / Forum News Service)3 / 3

MEDORA, N.D.—A life-sized Theodore Roosevelt statue made of bronze was unveiled to the public outside the Old Town Hall Theater in downtown Medora on Friday, Oct. 28, celebrating what would be the 159th birthday of the former President of the United States.

Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, who is currently chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) board of directors, gave opening remarks about the statue and believes that the statue will help keep the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt alive in Medora.

"To have this life-size statue that you can gaze at shows that Theodore Roosevelt is larger than life, his memory continues to this day for what he represented," Schafer said. "That energy and excitement of life and the strenuous life, as he called it, that's what you get here when you're in Medora."

Standing at approximately 5 feet, 9 inches, the bronze statue depicts Roosevelt standing with one hand on his hip wearing spectacles, a cowboy hat and military garb complete with a gun and holster and a real-life sword, evoking his time as a commander for the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.

Sculptor John Lopez said that he wanted the statue to represent the spirit of Roosevelt and also be as historically accurate as possible. He said that he researched clothing Roosevelt would have worn and even incorporated some actual pieces of clothing, as well as the sword, into the piece.

"I wanted to try to bring his bold attitude across, and not a lot of people stand with their hand on their hip," Lopez said. "I wanted the bully spirit to come through in the sculpture without it being too over the top."

Schafer thought that the statue does a great job in capturing Roosevelt's spirit.

"As you stand and look at that statue you get (Roosevelt's) resolve, the firmness," Schafer said. "He's also got a little smile, he was all about the joy of life. He was a happy guy, busy guy, energetic and I think you see that here."

TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler said that the foundation had discussed building a statue for years but lacked adequate funding to bring it to life. In September Tom and Maria Schuck were volunteering for TRMF in Medora and approached Hutzenbuhler about getting the funds together for the statue.

Schuck agreed to help make the statue a reality and met with Lopez about the project. Lopez lives in Lemmon, South Dakota, and was previously commissioned to make a similar Roosevelt statue.

After a September board meeting where the statue was discussed, Hutzenbuhler called a few more donors and enough funds were raised by early afternoon of that same day to commission the work.

"The statue is almost an answer to why hasn't there been a Theodore Roosevelt statue in this town," Hatzenbuhler said. "When Harold Schafer and his family created this, they understood that Theodore Roosevelt is what gives this place lasting meaning and gives Medora relevance forever."

Hutzenbuhler said that he also believes that the statue will fit in well with the direction Medora is heading.

"This will be iconic, we put it here because the Theodore Roosevelt show takes place in here," Hutzenbuhler said. "In the coming years we'll see more living history presentations, more live entertainment, more offerings. This is part of that process in making downtown Medora more interesting, more attractive."

Harold Schafer, the founder of the TRMF, passed away in 2001 but Hutzenbuhler believes that he would be very proud of the statute if he were still alive today.

Harold's son Ed Schafer agreed.

"Harold loved life, Theodore Roosevelt and obviously Medora," Schafer said. "So see a step forward like this with the statue here I think he would have been thrilled. He'd be standing here saying this is wonderful."

Grady McGregor

Grady McGregor is a city and state politics reporter for The Dickinson Press. He joined The Press in July 2017.

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