WINONA LAKE — A small, intimate crowd gathered beyond the rightfield fence of Grace College’s Miller Athletic Complex to officially dedicate a piece of artwork honoring a noted man of God, who ironically first made waves on the diamond before taking his eventual place behind the pulpit.
Located just off Winona Lake’s Heritage Trail, a polished metal sculpture entitled “Perpetual Fire,” was dedicated Tuesday, May 28, in honor of Billy Sunday, arguably Winona Lake’s most famous citizen. The sculpture is the third of four pieces to be dedicated on the trail.
“He’s probably the most prominent Winona Lake resident,” said Sharon White, who along with her husband, Terry, sponsored the sculpture. The sculpture is accompanied along the trail with an explanatory plaque and a bench dedicated to White’s daughter, Jamie, who passed away in 2006. Jamie White spent her childhood in Winona Lake.
“When the art commission talked about having something to honor Billy Sunday, we were very interested in sponsoring this piece,” Sharon White continued. “We live the biblical Christianity that Billy Sunday lived and preached to the world.”
The sculpture was created by artist Ben Solee. “This was a fun piece,” Solee said. “It went through several iterations before I settled on this.”
Town Board President and Art Commission Chair Rick Swaim explained the evolution of the project.
“It’s been an exciting journey,” Swaim said. “Terry (White) and I sat down about two and a half years ago and talked about the concept of doing something like this along the north leg of the greenway, to put in sculptured pieces like this to celebrate the rich heritage of the greenway.”
Swaim said the fourth piece is planned for dedication later this year and will celebrate Native Americans.
Aside from becoming a world-renowned evangelist, Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player with the Chicago Whitestockings before attaining notoriety as a minister.
The Winona Lake Art Commission consists of Swaim and Terry White, as well as Joy Lohse, Al Disbro, Amanda Banks, Martha Beeson and Retha Hicks.