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Local sculptor wants Tomb of the Unknowns carved in Colorado

MARBLE – A Carbondale-based mason and sculptor has a dream: to be among the Colorado artists selected to carve the replacement piece of marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“The stone is coming from Colorado, and so should the sculptors,” said Davidmark Trujillo, 46, a native Coloradan and owner of Aspen World Class Stone.

Crews at the Yule Marble Quarry above Marble are looking for a perfect block of marble to replace the historic tomb located at Arlington National Cemetery. A crack was discovered in the original tomb, installed at the cemetery in 1931, and the block needs to be replaced with a new, unblemished stone. Quarry workers hope to find the 13-foot slab by spring.



The original block of marble was pulled out of the Yule Marble Quarry and transported to Arlington in the early 1930s. There, Thomas Hudson Jones, a sculptor and painter known for his Washington, D.C., portraits, busts, sculptures and bronze medal designs, carved intricate relief Greek figures, inverted wreaths, and inscriptions on the tomb.

Trujillo, who has purchased marble from the Yule Quarry for other projects, read a Jan. 5 article in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about replacing the tomb’s stone.



“I was having dinner with several sculptors,” he said, “and we thought, `Why should the stone go to a sculptor back east?’ We thought the job should be done in the Roaring Fork Valley. We decided then to put our energy behind the effort.”

Trujillo is passionate about carving the tomb in Colorado, even though the work will create an exact replica of Jones’ original work.

“I have all the dimensions and schematics,” Trujillo said. He secured copies of the designs from Syracuse University in New York, where the original plans are archived.

Rex Loesby, a mining engineer and owner of Sierra Minerals Quarry Corp., which operates the Yule Marble Quarry, knows of Trujillo’s desire to sculpt the Unknowns stone.

But Loesby doesn’t know if Trujillo and his fellow sculptors will be able to meet the strict qualifications required of artists whose work appears at federal monuments like those at Arlington.

Thursday, Trujillo was in Denver to meet with Loesby and with representatives of the Veterans Administration to build support for his sculpting proposal.

“I’m not sure he could meet the performance criteria of the Veteran’s Administration,” Loesby said earlier in the week before meeting with the sculptor. “I’m not ruling it out, but he has to have proven experience in doing similar kinds of things.”

Trujillo said he’s lined up a couple of funders, and is looking for more. He said he’s located the saws he would need for the project. Besides himself, he’s hoping to create a co-op of Colorado sculptors up to the task.

“I’d like to see five or six of the best known Colorado sculptors get involved,” he said, mentioning New Castle sculptor Greg Tonozzi, co-director of the annual Marble/marble Symposium, a marble sculpting conference held each summer in Marble.

Although Tonozzi expressed enthusiasm and said he would be honored to be included, he was also taken aback.

“In my daughter’s language, `What a humungous job!'” he said, speaking from his studio, where he’s turning a 30-ton block of marble into an Indian princess for a client in Pennsylvania.

Tonozzi has been following the progress of Marble’s quarry workers searching for the perfect stone. He said a lot of people have been asking if he would get involved.

“I’ve been looking at photographs of the original tomb that was carved in Vermont,” he said. “The carvings on the original tomb are real intricate. To be honest, I think the only way to get an exact replica is to do the sculpting on a CNC machine.”

A CNC machine – a computerized numerically controlled carving machine – Tonozzi said, scans original work and uses a computer laser to replicate it. He said a machine large enough for the tomb project would cost about $1 million.

“What did Jimmy Durante say? `This is bigger than the both of us?’ This is something that needs to be done right. I’m a veteran myself of Vietnam, and this is the kind of job that would keep me up at night,” Tonozzi said. “I’m happy to help in any way I can, though.”

Trujillo said he’s spoken to U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., who encouraged him to pursue the idea of having the tomb sculpted in Colorado.

He’s also contacted Jack Metzler, superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, and Harry Colborn of Harry’s Heavy Haulers in Rifle, whose company may transport the marble block to Arlington.

And Trujillo said Marble Mayor Wayne Brown is an advocate of the tomb project.

“Theodore Roosevelt is a hero of mine,” Trujillo added. “Maybe I’m a little vain, but I want to get this done here. I have no fear.

“We want it to stay here and be an all-Colorado effort,” he said. “And when we’re done, we want to haul it across the country and let people see it. Why let it go to some other place?”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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