An Eagle Scout decided to help out his local library and spruce up a Mount Sinai artist’s sculpture.
Sculptor Pauli Suominen gifted the sculpture to the Comsewogue Public Library in 1999. After more than two decades greeting visitors outside the library’s doors, Zach Gallant, of Port Jefferson Station, decided to make its restoration his Eagle Scout project.
The 18-year-old from Troop #354 said that he wasn’t even born yet when the sculpture was first created, but he knew that the community would love to see it shine again.
“I had been working on it for about nine months from start to finish,” he said, adding it was a complete team effort that included his troop, scoutmaster, the library and Suominen’s oversight.
At first, the Scout wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for his final project. It wasn’t until he visited the library and spoke with Library Director Debbie Engelhardt after a tour of the library grounds.
“We walked the property together and saw the sculpture needed some TLC,” she said. “He got support from his scoutmaster and it became a plan.”
The sculpture, titled “Tiger,” previously was on the opposite side of the library, and could be seen from Terryville Road. With Gallant’s renovation, they moved it to the front door, so it be seen easier by all.
“It’s a focal point now where it’s going to make people smile,” Engelhardt said. “It’s nice and bright, whimsical and we’re shining a spotlight on it.
Suominen, a Vietnam veteran, was a carpenter by trade, but his passion is as a self-taught artist. He uses scraps of metal, pieces of wood and stone to create abstract sculptures, that are seen throughout the library property and across the country.
“Pauli was very happy to work with Zach Gallant on the refurbishment project,” his wife, Christine, said. “It is always encouraging when younger people are interested in doing something for the community. Zach and his group did a great job of restoring the sculpture to its original luster.”
Gallant said the sculpture is unique because it’s made from recycled materials.
“Mr. Suominen had just taken scraps off the ground and things he’d seen and created the sculpture with four chairs and a bike rack,” he said.
During his project process, he and six other people took the whole sculpture off the library grounds and brought it to their scoutmaster’s garage. There, he sanded it, painted it and made sure all changes were approved from its original artist.
“It was a lot of work, more than I expected,” he said. “But I’m proud of myself … It’s definitely not something you can just do with no help. You need people to guide you.”
Gallant said the whole renovation took about three months, overall. It was put back in its new spot at the library in January.
“A lot of people love it already, or can’t wait to see it,” he said.
And the statue can now stand there for another set of decades for people to enjoy.
“It was really a wonderful community partnership,” Engelhardt said. “We’re always so happy to connect.”
The Eagle Scout said that although it was a lot of hard work, he’s so happy he was able to help his community, and earn his new title.He gave advice to fellow Boy Scouts who are thinking of joining the higher rank.
“If you’re close to becoming an Eagle Scout, just finish it because being so close doesn’t get you anywhere in life — finishing it does,” he said.