Looking Back: Statue of legendary Ohio sheriff features local sheriff, youth
Published 8:44 pm Friday, July 7, 2023
On an early December morning 2002, Marsha Haines walked into Larry Godwin’s metal sculpture shop along the railroad track in Brundidge.
She viewed his work and fought back tears as she stood before the statue of her late husband, Sheriff Gary Haines of Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s Gary,” Marsha Haines said, wiping away her tears. “It’s incredible that it could be so perfect. How anyone could capture Gary this way? It’s almost like Larry knew Gary, like he got inside him and understood who he was.”
On that day, Marsha Haines and her daughter, Christian, were in Brundidge to give final approval to the figure of their loved one before it was cast in bronze and then erected at the Children’s Service Center in Dayton, Ohio.
Gary Haines was one of the most respected and admired law enforcement officers ever in Montgomery County. In and around Dayton, Gary Haines is a legend.
Haines was such a popular figure in Montgomery County that the county commissioners wanted to memorialize him in a special way. Haines was such a dedicate advocate for children, the decision was made to have a statue erected in his memory at the Children’s Services Center which would be named in his honor.
Larry Godwin was considered for the project because he had been commissioned to sculpt a life-size replica of the 1905 Wright Flyer for the Riverscape Complex Dayton. The county commissioners were so impressed with Godwin’s work that they commission him to do the life-size bronze sculpture of the beloved Montgomery County sheriff.
Godwin had photographs from which to work but he needed models. Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas was similar in size to Haines so Godwin asked Thomas to model for him wearing the Ohio sheriff’s uniform. The statue grouping included two children, a boy and a girl. Kati Thomas, the daughter of Sheriff Thomas, and Gerald Adams, the grandson of Deputy Sheriff Frank Wheeler were the children models for the statue.
Sheriff Thomas said it was an honor to be asked to pose for a statue of such a distinguished, dedicated and beloved sheriff.
“Sheriff Haines was a model for all sheriffs,” Thomas said. “I felt like I could relate to him in that I care about the people I serve. Working with young people in rec ball – baseball and softball, -has given me opportunities to be a positive influence in their lives and in the community.”
Sheriff Haines set the bar high for all sheriffs, Thomas said.
As for the kids, Kati Thomas was only five years old when she posed for the statue. Her dad is doubtful that she remembers much about it. But how many kids every get to be in bronze?
“For Kati and Gerald, that was an honor,” Thomas said. “One day, I hope to be able to go Dayton to see the statue.”
Thomas said it was an honor to be a part of recognizing a man who was at the pinnacle of his profession.
Twenty years later, the bronze statue of Sheriff Gary Haines of Dayton, Ohio, stands in memory of the man and his dedication to law and order and his commitment to children and their safety and well-being.
The statue also stands in recognition of the artistry, dedication and commitment of a local artist, Larry Godwin of Brundidge, whose work may be viewed locally at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.
Larry Godwin is now a resident of a health-care facility in Camden.