GARY | A Statue of Liberty replica is standing back on its pedestal at E. Fourth Avenue and Broadway after a near four-year absence thanks to a collaborative effort between city and county officials.
Lake County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mike Hamady, a Gary native, was talking with his mother about a year ago when he started working at the county building at the southwest corner of Fourth and Broadway.
Hamady's mother worked at U.S. Steel's Gary Works for 48 years and entered daily through the Broadway gate, passing the statue on the northwest corner.
"She asked me if the statue was still there and I told her no, just the base," Hamady said.
Hamady, a self-described history buff, said his mother told him it was a prestigious honor when the statue came to Gary in 1950.
He started researching and learned it was part of the Boy Scouts of America's Strengthen the Arm of Liberty campaign, which ran from 1949 to 1952 as a fundraiser honoring the group's 40th anniversary.
The copper statues were created in Chicago and called Lady Liberty's Little Sisters. Only 200 were manufactured and could be bought for a donation of $350.
Hamady learned the Gary statue was made possible by a donation from Robert Welsh, founder of Welsh Oil.
Hamady started asking county officials to see if anyone had any answers to the missing statue.
He worked with Thurman Johnson, a county building official, along with 2nd District Gary Councilman Mike Protho and Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, to try to solve the mystery. At one point, thought they cracked the case.
"We saw one in Aetna and got kind of excited about it, but it wasn't the original one," Hamady said.
Shortly thereafter, Hamady ran into Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson at a Christmas party and told her the story.
"She said she thought it was taken down for repairs and sitting in a city garage," he said.
Then in April, on the drive into work, Hamady looked to the corner and saw the statue back on her base. Freeman-Wilson said it was being stored in the Hudson Campbell Building just east of City Hall.
"My hat's off to the mayor that she did that so quickly," he said.
"It's a great demonstration of what happens when members of the community, county and city work together," Freeman-Wilson said.
Allen said the statue's return is an important part of efforts already underway to revitalize the gateway to the city.
"We're trying to restore some of our historic landmarks," Allen said. "These are the things people see as they drive by on the Toll Road."
"This is an important crossroads in the city and Lake County," he said. "We need to preserve the history here for future generations."