Nov 9, 2013
04:46 AMThe Connecticut Story
Connecticut Sculptor Hopes 'Freedom Angel' Will Be Insignia for Veterans
ROXBURY—On an overcast November morning this week, sculptor Sterett-Gittings Kelsey, 71, could be found at Roxbury’s market in her hometown, where her 7-foot-tall “Freedom Angel” is on display. It was another step in her tireless efforts to honor and improve the lives of veterans upon their return to America.
Mrs. Kelsey’s angel was based on a 12-inch model created two years ago. The angel has the face of innocence, looking like a little girl with her hair in pigtails, the same hairstyle Mrs. Kelsey sported as she sat with her supporters in front of a donation bucket.
“I was determined to keep her a little girl,” Mrs. Kelsey said about the design. “I wanted her to be something America can fall in love with. [The point is to] know that when you touch her, you reach a vet.”
She built the angel at Danbury Fair Mall. She was given permission to use the mall as her personal studio after experiencing ceiling and door issues at home. Mrs. Kelsey’s sculptures are hand-made from a clay model, which she then casts in bronze. A ceramic mold is made by hand for each sculpture and is destroyed during the casting process. For this particular piece, Mrs. Kelsey said, she completed the angel in about five weeks.
Mrs. Kelsey’s inspiration had a two-fold genesis. In 1988, one of her neighbors was killed after an Islamic terrorist bombing downed a plane in Lockerbie, Scotland (Pan American flight 103). This provided the incentive to build her first 12-inch bronze angel, which she named “Joy.” She built the angel in Scotland to provide a bit of comfort to the small town.
“It’s about letting another country know we care about their losses as much as our own,” Mrs. Kelsey said. “I wanted to celebrate the lives [of those lost] rather than having the angel serve as a memorial.”
The second part of her inspiration came 20 years later when she heard Bob Dole talk about how American troops were being short-changed, inciting her anger and setting into motion her building of a much larger angel based on the original model.
Before building her “Freedom Angel” in 2011, Mrs. Kelsey had to go through a long process of applying to have her “Freedom Angel Foundation” designated as a 501(c) 3 non-profit charitable organization. This status was achieved in 2010.
Mrs. Kelsey noticed while doing research on the status of veterans that veterans don’t have any special insignia. Her goal is to make her “Freedom Angel” serve as the insignia for those veterans. So far, one of her 12-inch models is on board the U.S.S. Sterett.
Going forward, she hopes to have the angel design put on items such as coffee mugs, plates, and other memorabilia.