By MIKE YOUDS
Daily News Staff Reporter
Phil Gaglardi has come home to his namesake.
A bronze statue of the late pastor-turned-politician was unveiled in Gaglardi Park on Monday outside the church where he preached 60 years ago.
More than 100 friends, family and well-wishers gathered around the park’s arch in searing mid-day heat to applaud the ceremony and the spirit of the man it honours.
The statue is the culmination of four years of fundraising by the Friends of Phil Gaglardi Society and six months’ work by local sculptor Terry Norlander who, with Garry Davies, also created the Overlanders sculpture in front of City Hall.
“This is a very exciting day for us,” said Doug Scott, chair of the society. “The unveiling of the statue and, even more, to do so in the presence of direct family members.”
Gaglardi (1913-1995) is cast as statesman and orator, a flamboyant and upbeat achiever, clutching a scroll of blueprints as he strides into a room to trumpet another bridge or highway project. It was during his tenure as B.C. highways minister during the 1950s and ’60s that Gaglardi rose to wider prominence, nicknamed Flyin’ Phil for his preference for air travel and speeding.
Though he cut a sometimes controversial course through political life, he a man of his time, dedicated to the vision of economic progress. He served as mayor of Kamloops from 1988 to 1990.
Daily News editor Mel Rothenburger, who was mayor when an earlier plan to rename Overlander Bridge after Gaglardi was shelved in favour of the statue, welcomed onlookers.
“Or, as Phil might say, ‘Jumpin Jupiter, how ya doin?’
“It might be the shortest statue in the province of British Columbia,” he quipped in reference to Gaglardi’s five-foot, five-inch stature. “That’s because we decided to make it life-size.”
Gaglardi served the province and the city well, he added. Less well known was his private side as a shy and generous man.
“These are the things that made him a complex and fascinating individual,” said Rothenburger, who penned Gaglardi’s biography.
Gaglardi’s son Bob and granddaughter Andrea attended the ceremony.
“This is quite something for the family,” said Andrea, who looked up to her grandfather. “I thought he was just perfect, and he told me so himself so that helped me believe it.”
Born in Mission, Gaglardi and his wife, Jennie, arrived in Kamloops in 1943, when he became pastor at Calvary Temple (now St. Andrew’s).
“He naturally learned to fall in love with Kamloops and treasure the city he would call home.”
His first love, however, was helping others, which he considered a blessing in life, she noted. He had the gift of gab and would engage in conversation anyone he knew.
Norlander, who toiled in his Westsyde studio to faithfully recreate the spitting image of Gaglardi, said public sculpture adds another dimension to civic life.
“Sculpture is meant to reflect on a daily basis an appreciation for history and for the (subjects) themselves,” he said.
Taking the wax cast to a Lower Mainland foundry was like saying goodbye an old friend, he told the crowd. The return trip with the bronze was more exhilarating.
“Being his last ride on the Coq, I yelled out loud, as if he could hear me, ‘Enjoy it while it lasts, Phil.’ You could almost see his infectious grin with his wavy hair blowing in the slipstream.”