Life-Like Sculptures to Honor Fallen Broward officers
By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel 4:42 p.m. EDT, October 5, 2011
SOUTHWEST RANCHESâ€” The challenge in creating a life-size sculpture of Lt. Rob Laudenberger is that a 6-foot-1 statue is pretty tall. The artist doing the work, Brenda Angel, 46, is just short of the 5-foot mark, but that's not the real dilemma. After creating a clay molding of the statuesque lieutenant, Angel has to shrink it to about the same size as the three other Broward officers whose likenesses she's turning into bronze. "He's enormously tall, which I guess is good for catching the bad guys," said Angel. "The problem is that you have to make him proportional to the others." For the past few months, Angel has been working in a 10x10 storage unit in Southwest Ranches on four sculptures that will be part of the Broward County Law Enforcement & K-9 Memorial at Markham Park. The concept for the memorial sculptures is using live models to honor dead heroes. Laundenberger, 46, a veteran with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, is one of four members of the Police Honor Guard of Broward County who were selected to model for the bronzes. The privately funded, one-acre site will honor the 63 law enforcement officers and six police canines who have died in the line of duty in Broward County since 1914. The memorial will also have two reflecting pools, a brick pathway, and a wall listing the names of all the deceased officers.
The estimated total cost is about $300,000. Laundenberger regards posing for the statue as an honor with great personal resonance. He was the trainer and supervisor of Officers Roy Burnsed, 25, and Charles Randall, 32, who died in 2001 when their SUVs collided head-on as they chased poachers in a Palm Beach County wildlife refuge. "It's very humbling," Laudenberger said. "Anything we can do to help the families, and create a nice atmosphere for them, is the least I can do." Angel just finished the clay molding of Plantation Officer Chris Stilwell, 41, who heads the honor guard. His bronze alter ego will carry a folded flag. Statues of Coral Springs Sgt. Carla Mertes, 31, and Sunrise police dog Rex III are still in the works. Mertes' pose is kneeling and setting down a rose. Her statue represents female officers who have been killed, but also surviving family members of fallen officers. Her own father, Carl Mertes, was a North Miami police officer who was shot and killed in 1980 while backing up a fellow officer. He was 44. "It's very touching to be part of this," said Mertes. "We wanted to make sure the survivors will also be represented." Stilwell said when his honor guard group started designing the memorial about three years ago, they decided to find an artist who could custom-design the sculptures, instead of purchasing copies of other "generic" police statues. "It became important to us to give it a personal and unique touch," said Stilwell. "We didn't want to end up with statues that were at four or five other places around the country." Stilwell got a chance to see his clay likeness last month. "I was pretty emotional," he said. "Looking at the mirror image of myself right there let me know that I am able to honor these officers and also leave a permanent mark." Angel, born and raised in Miramar, is now based in Oklahoma. She has created many patriotic and religious public sculptures, including a 9/11 memorial piece she did in 2004 that is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. A dedication ceremony and unveiling in Markham Park is scheduled for May 2012. To learn more about the memorial site, or to donate, go to firstname.lastname@example.org">http://www.honorguardinc.com. email@example.com, 954-356-4605 or @GeoRodriguez on Twitter Copyright ÂŠ 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel