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A grand tribute | Art sculptures in Oak Harbor honor former teachers

Jan Whitsitt, daughter of the late Trudy Sundberg, tears up during last Thursday’s sculpture dedication. Below, Wallie Funk looks on.  - Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Jan Whitsitt, daughter of the late Trudy Sundberg, tears up during last Thursday’s sculpture dedication. Below, Wallie Funk looks on.
— image credit: Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Jan Whitsitt’s eyes filled with tears as she addressed a small crowd near a neatly landscaped garden spot at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor last Thursday night.

On hand as part of an art dedication that recognized the contributions of her mother and three other Oak Harbor teachers, Whitsitt looked around at a gathering that included politicians, educators, civic leaders, artists and family members and couldn’t help but think about how much the late Trudy Sundberg would have loved being there.

“Mom certainly loved art and literature and people and music and politics,” Whitsitt said. “If you look around this crowd, all of those things are represented here. It’s a real honor to be her daughter and to be here dedicating this beautiful sculpture.”

About two dozen people attended the dedication that paid tribute to retired Oak Harbor High School English teachers Pat Hawley, Tom Carroll, Mary Ann Funk and Sundberg.

The sculpture, created by former high school art teacher Richard Nash, was donated to the City of Oak Harbor by former Whidbey News-Times co-owner and publisher Wallie Funk, who had bought the piece in October 2012 from Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden on Camano Island.

“He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it at the time,” said Nash, now a full-time abstract artist. “It ended up here for a very good reason.”

The sculpture is surrounded by trees in a tidy, shady garden spot landscaped by the Oak Harbor Garden Club and Nash in the northwest section of the park.

“It is going to be seen by a lot of people,” said Wallie Funk, who was among the speakers during the ceremony.

“I am just overwhelmed with it, with its location, with the whole layout, the whole design and for the fact that it is honoring a group of people I’ve been familiar with almost all my life.”

One of the teachers was Funk’s wife, Mary Ann, who passed away in 2008.

Of the four honored teachers, the only one still living is Hawley, the former drama teacher who also attended the ceremony and shared stories about the other three.

“The honor of being in such illustrious company is beyond anything I could have ever expected,” Hawley said. “They were legends, literally, in their own time.”

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley thanked Funk for his generosity in sharing the sculpture with the Oak Harbor community.

“This is a gift that keeps on giving,” Dudley said. “Our citizens here in the City of Oak Harbor will be able to enjoy this for many years. Individuals who visit our city from outside the state will get to enjoy its presence.”

Hawley, who still lives in Oak Harbor, said she is pleased to see such a collaboration between the city and a commitment to public art.

“We have gone into a higher league among cities,” she said. “That’s what distinguishes a lot of places is to have permanent art collections.”

Whitsitt, who now lives in Seattle, shared childhood memories of coming to the park and sitting on the rooftop of the family car to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. When she comes back now, she’ll have a quiet place to visit and a special piece of artwork to admire and reflect.

“It really brings a lot of immortality, I think, to these teachers,” she said.

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