Group of Fans Plan Kalas Memorial
Harry Kalas, whose Hall of Fame baritone voice was silenced on April 13, 2009, touched the lives of millions of Philadelphians for nearly forty years as the play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia Phillies. Kalas, with fellow Hall of Famer Richie “Whitey” Ashburn, formed what is arguably the greatest announcing team in the history of baseball.
While Harry’s colorful delivery expressed his love of baseball, his call of a game became a pure expression of love for the city and fans of Philadelphia. And, as much as Harry loved the people of Philadelphia, they remain wild about Harry.
In a heartfelt demonstration of that affection, a group of Kalas admirers has kicked off a plan to fund and build a permanent monument to the beloved broadcaster.
The day after Kalas died, Philadelphia Phillies fan, Antonio Jose started a petition on Facebook seeking support for a statue to be erected in Kalas’ honor and memory. One of the Facebook members that signed the petition was Philadelphia native and acclaimed sculptor, Lawrence J. Nowlan.
Nowlan, a Philadelphia native with a studio in Windsor, Vermont, is one of finest figurative bronze sculptors working today and is often on the short list for commissioned memorial sculptures. Most recently the artist created a heroically sized action scene of Nile Kinnick for the University of Iowa, a larger than life Ralph Cramden installed in New York City’s Port Authority and a series of intricately detailed bas-relief sculptures commemorating winemakers at the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame.
Nowlan had started sketching and sculpting Kalas over the summer and seeing the groundswell of support demonstrated on the Facebook page, inspired him to reach out to Jose. After explaining his background and vision of a Kalas monument to Jose, the originator of the petition invited Nowlan to share administration of the Facebook page.
Next, Nowlan gathered a group of friends to strategize a way to turn this dream into a reality. The goals– raise the money, sculpt the memorial and deliver the finished sculpture to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Greg Veith, an attorney in Norristown, and Nowlan’s childhood friend, recommended forming a non-profit entity so that all donations would be used for the development of the statue. Veith incorporated the organizational entity, Dear Harry, Inc. whose current singular mission is to promote, fund and execute a memorial to Harry Kalas. Dear Harry, Inc. is in the process of registering for 501(c)(3) status.
Nowlan’s college roommate, Todd Palmer, volunteered the services of the advertising agency at which he is Creative Director, Virtual Farm Creative, Inc., located in Phoenixville. Virtual Farm Creative developed a brand for the mission, a website and other promotional materials.
Rounding out the team is another friend of Nowlan’s, Suzanne Downs Norris of Paoli, who enthusiastically encouraged Nowlan to jump at this chance.
“No one is more perfect for this task,” reflects Norris. “He is the most amazing sculptor, an ultimate Phillies fan and the best choice to immortalize the voice of my summers, Harry Kalas.”
Indeed, Nowlan is a huge sports fan and an even bigger fan of all Philadelphia teams. Everyone involved in this project are die-hard Philadelphia sports fans and they have initiated the promotion of the proposed memorial by donating a lot of time and talent.
Palmer, whose Chester County agency works with a number of non-profits, became inspired when Nowlan approached him with the scale model of Kalas.
“(Nowlan) created a clay sculpture following Harry’s death while he was watching the Phils try to repeat,” remembers Palmer. “Then we saw the petition and it was serendipity. 20,000 Harry Kalas fans can’t be wrong!”
The vision for this project is to raise enough money (as much as $100,000) to fund the development of an original and permanent, seven-foot tall bronze likeness of Kalas. Nowlan estimates that, if all goes as planned, the sculpture could be unveiled at the beginning of the 2011 season.
“Harry was not your run-of-the-mill broadcaster,” adds Nowlan. “He was a fan watching in our living rooms with us, rooting for the team that held our hearts.”
Everyone involved in the Dear Harry, Inc. project agrees that, if they’re able to raise enough money, Richie Ashburn should be added to the memorial.
“If only half of the people that signed the petition donated just $10 each, we’d have enough,” muses Nowlan who is in the process of creating a bronze version of the scale model.
The petition that Jose started now includes nearly 20,000 signatures many of which are accompanied by memories of Harry. “Philadelphia has a Rocky Statue,” ponders Jose. “Don’t you think Harry has done more for this city than Rocky did?”