Saturday, October 01, 2011

Bronze warbird not done yet: Robert Henderson at work. Cañon City, Colorado.

Robert Henderson stands near a Warbird in his studio in Cañon City.
(Charlotte Burrous/Daily Record)
His work is all over Fremont County, as well as across the state and the country. However, he is not done yet. Recently, Robert Henderson began working on a bronze of Bird Millman to be displayed somewhere in the area, but he is not sure where it will go yet.

His vision is of Millman, stepping onto a wire on the Clocktower at Third and Main streets.

"When I first started this project, I had a client who wanted it done and we were going to put it on the Reynolds Bank building," Henderson said. "We wanted to record the community's history."

He said several people have pledged to support the project financially. Having the sculpture on the Clocktower is one of the possibilities; however, he has to work out the logistics of where it will be placed. The physical aspects of it are easy, but where to put it is being contemplated.

"We don't even know who owns the Clocktower," Henderson said. "Greg DiRito owns the land and he has no problem with it. We're going to see if we can do one of the lady stepping off the Clocktower. I believe that's where she belongs. We would like to invite the community to do this with us. I'd like to share it with my town."

He noted Millman was born Jennadean Engleman in Cañon City and traveled in mud shows as a child with her parents, Dyke F. and Genevieve Patton Engleman.

The trio entered the big time when they joined vaudeville, where they played in such venues as Keith's Union Square and Hammerstein's Roof Garden.

During her tenure, she performed at the Berlin's Wintergarten Theatre and for the court of the Kaiser. Dubbed as the "Eva Tanquay of the Wire," Millman performed in the New York Hippodrome and the Palace Theatre on Broadway, a flyer said.

She later joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus and remained there until it merged with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

For whatever reason, Millman was not allowed to perform as a trapeze artist with Ringling Brothers.

In 1921, Millman appeared in John Murray Anderson's third annual Greenwich Village Follies, in "Deep Purple" silent film and various other venues.

On the personal side, she was married briefly two times, and a third time to Joseph Francis O'Day, who died after losing a fortune in the 1929 crash on Wall Street.

When Millman returned to Cañon City to live with her mother and extended family, she was destitute. Several months before her 50th birthday, she died of cancer and was buried in Lakeside Cemetery.

Henderson's "I Knew You'd Come" Dust Off Memorial is on display at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo.

The brainchild of Vietnam veteran Dennis Withers and Henderson, the sculpture depicts a soldier carrying an injured comrade to a waiting Huey helicopter, which is credited with saving 900,000 lives in the 11 years it served in Vietnam.

"It honors the helicopter pilots," he said. "It's about saving the infantrymen. These pilots would come in the Hueys and pluck out the injured during the firefight. Those are the real heroes.

"The name of the bronze comes from when a soldier who was being picked up while the medic fights off the enemy while helping the injury. When the medic asked if it hurt, the soldier said, 'no, I knew you'd come.'"

Henderson has created monumental bronze sculptures for 24 years, including at the Air Force Academy along with nine sculptures in Cañon City and all over the state, a press release said. He also has created busts of notables, such as John Denver, Walter Cronkite and various others.

The Dust Off Memorial is on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo through Veterans Day.

He thanked the docents and security workers at the arts center for their support.

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