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Siblings Donate Bronze Swan Sculpture to Lakeland in Honor of Their Parents Written By: Cheryl Johnston
he “City of Swans” received some wonderful news recently.
Siblings Sandra Trattner and Steve Wolfson, along with their respective spouses Steve and Lili, have commissioned an 8-foot bronze sculpture as a gift to the city in tribute to their parents, Wil and Elaine Wolfson, longtime Lakeland residents who, like swans, “married for life.” City Commissioners had voted August 1, 2011 to accept the anonymous gift, but the name of the donors remained unknown until the public announcement at the Rotary Club luncheon on September 27 at First United Methodist Church. Bill Tinsley, the city’s parks and recreation director, made the formal presentation following a slide show detailing the downtown’s history so the audience could understand the significance of the placement of the sculpted swans. Approximately 200 attended and felt compassion when the elder Wilson was momentarily overwhelmed by the announcement that the gift was made in honor of him and his beloved wife of 62 years, Elaine, who died in 2009. Wil Wolfson told well wishers that she would have been overjoyed and “very proud.” Ian G. Brennan is the contemporary sculptor, woodcarver and creator of “Mute Swan Protecting Her Cygnets,” who since 1989 has been crafting artwork for the British Royal Household. Via e-mail from his home in Portsmouth, England, he expressed his pleasure to be involved, “It was indeed most generous of Steve and Lili Wolfson and also Sandra Trattner in kindly commissioning this unique larger bronze version for Lakeland.” He explained the process also. “The American Bronze Foundry in Sanford,
Florida, using the original Mute Swan wood sculpture as the ‘master copy,’ will then enlarge my original 2’ high work to 8’ high, which will then be cast in bronze and should be completed early next year, 2012. This is also HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. I like to think this will be another great example of our two countries working together.” Brennan continued with some background information readers might find interesting. “I carved ‘Mute Swan’ 20 years ago from a lime tree (Tilia Species). From this same tree I also produced several woodcarvings, which are now in Windsor Castle. One I was commissioned to produce for the Royal Household from this same lime tree at the same time as the swan was the gilded coronet for the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne - the Princess Royal.” A version of the swans and others can be viewed online at www.iangb.com. Once completed, the commissioned work will be permanently positioned on an elevated “nest” area in Main Street Overlook Park overlooking Lake Mirror, across Massachusetts Avenue from The Terrace Hotel downtown. The commonality of a swan tradition originated in 1957 on Lake Morton when a local family arranged for the initial pair from the Queen of England to be donated to the city of Lakeland, after all but one remained from the 20 or living on city lakes between 1923 and 1954. The Queen donated the swans and asked only reimbursement of the capturing and shipping costs. Today, more than 80 swans live primarily on three lakes Morton, Wire, and Mirror. Like the swans, the Wolfson family has been loyal to Lakeland. Wil Wolfson, 94, owned the former W.W. Wolfson’s Pharmacy on
South Florida Avenue, one of three opened by the family. The Famous Department Store from the early 1900s, across from Overlook Park on Main Street, was founded after the Wolfsons arrived in 1909 as the city’s first Jewish residents. The siblings had grown up in Lakeland and felt impressed to give back to the place where
their grandfather established the family’s tradition of generosity. Honoring their parents added to the purpose. Steve Wolfson said: “Just as the swan is a part of Lakeland history, Lakeland is my family’s history. Our motive is simple. My sister and I want to present a gift to the city that has given so much to our family.”
FOCUS Magazine lakeland October 2011