Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IAGenWeb Project
by John Skipper
MASON CITY — This is the story of one man’s devotion to the woman he loved and his ongoing quest to provide hope for people struggling with mental illness.
Wally Smeby, retired owner of Metalcraft, lost his first wife, Jan, in 1998.
“She had multiple health issues, including depression that led to her suicide,” he said.
“It is a story that I live with, a story of how she left this earth. It doesn’t go away — it never will — but you have to find away of going on.”
Smeby, who has since remarried, found a way. In honor of his late wife he established the Jan Again Foundation with the sole purpose of supporting mental health issues.
“Supporting them on the prevention side,” he said. “It’s important to provide hope.”
Smeby has contributed to many mental health activities over the years, most recently $50,000 through the Jan Again Foundation to the Blue Zones initiative toward a more healthy city.
His latest venture is not only a tribute to his late wife but also a gift to the city. He has commissioned a sculpture in honor of her — to be called simply “Hope” — that he intends to donate to the city.
Smeby has been working with Robin Anderson and the River City Sculptures on Parade non-profit organization to get it done.
The sculpture will feature two hands cast in bronze supporting a stainless steel powder-coated heart. It will be about 45 inches tall, excluding the pedestal. The proposed location is the southwest corner of Central Park.
Mason City artist Jim Zach worked on the original design. The sculptor commissioned to do the work is Gregory Johnson of Cumming, Georgia, whose works are already on display in several places in Mason City. He sculpted “Zinger” in front of the Decker House; “Bird Watchers” in front of the city parking lot on East State Street near the Henkel Construction building; “Radiance” in front of Moorman Clothiers; and “The Monumental Professor” on the lawn of the Mason City Public Library.
Smeby is personally financing the sculpture at a cost of about $14,000, he said.
“I’m financing this myself because I want the foundation money to go directly to mental health issues,” said Smeby. “My hope is that the sculpture will draw attention to the foundation and to the mental health principles I support.
“Maybe someone on the cusp of mental illness will see the sculpture and it will call attention to the foundation and bring hope to someone who needs it.”
The sculpture is expected to be done in late May or early June, after which a special unveiling ceremony will be held.
The project has received the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Park Board. The City Council is expected to add its approval Tuesday night.
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2016
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