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Frank Gaylord, who sculpted Korean War Veterans Memorial, dies at 93

A tourist walks among the snow-covered statues of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. Frank Gaylord was chosen as the sculptor and Louis Nelson was selected to create a wall of etched faces. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Frank C. Gaylord, a Vermont sculptor who created the 19 statues in a column tableau of battle-tested soldiers for the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, died March 21 at the home of a daughter in Northfield, Vt. He was 93.

The family confirmed the death in an announcement on the website of the Hooker Whitcomb Funeral Home in Barre, Vt. No cause was listed.

Mr. Gaylord, a World War II Army paratrooper who received the Bronze Star Medal for valor during the Battle of the Bulge, said he intended his sculptures to “confront visitors with the reality of actual war” while complying with the design committee’s instructions not to glorify it.

His memory of the faces of the men he served with became models for many of the soldiers in the memorial.

The design was years in the making and underwent several revisions at the insistence of several review panels before it became a reality. The number of soldiers in the tableau was reduced from 38 to 19. The memorial also includes a mural wall by designer Louis Nelson, consisting of black granite etched with faces of military support personnel, nurses, truck drivers, medics and chaplains.

Mr. Gaylord’s statues of soldiers “are all combat people,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “They are people who got up in the morning and went into attack. They know what it’s like.”

After the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982, legislation was introduced in Congress calling for a memorial commemorating the Korean War, in which more than 33,000 members of the U.S. armed forces perished in combat from 1950 to 1953, according to Defense Department figures.

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The Korean War Memorial, at the west end of the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, was dedicated in 1995 by President Bill Clinton and President Kim Young-sam of South Korea.

“Cast in stainless steel at a scale slightly larger than life, these gray, weary troopers unself-consciously invite the empathy of all viewers, veteran and non-veteran alike,” Washington Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey wrote in 1995, when the memorial opened.

“There is fatigue and alertness everywhere you look,” Forgey added. “These ghostly soldiers in their windblown ponchos seem intensely real.”

Mr. Gaylord was a well-known figure in the colony of sculptors in Barre, Vt., who carved their artistic expressions in the plentiful granite supplies in the area. He had lived there since 1951.

Among his other sculptures were those of Thomas Chittenden, the first governor of Vermont; President Calvin Coolidge, a native Vermonter; and conductor Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He did a Little League monument for Williamsport, Pa., the site of the Little League World Series; and a statue of William Penn for a park in Philadelphia.

Frank Chalfant Gaylord II was born in Clarksburg, W.Va., on March 9, 1925. He once told the Free Press of Burlington, Vt., that his career as a sculptor began taking shape when his grandmother made clay animals for him when he was 3.

“I’d take it to her and ask her to make me another, and she’d say, ‘I don’t have time to do it again. You do it,’ ” he said. “And here I am.”

He attended Temple University in Philadelphia on the GI bill and graduated in 1950. Among Mr. Gaylord’s first jobs as a sculptor was the carving of granite headstones for cemeteries.

His wife of 56 years, the former Mary Cornwall, died in 2005. Survivors include two daughters, Leanne Triano of Northfield and Victoria Gaylord of Essex, Vt.; two grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. A son, Richard Gaylord, predeceased him.

On July 27, 2003, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 37-cent Korean War stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of hostilities. Mr. Gaylord sued, claiming the Postal Service had used his work without his permission. In 2013, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the Postal Service to pay him $684,844 in damages.

In addition to his sculpting, Mr. Gaylord was an actor in the Barre Players theater ensemble. He is still remembered in Vermont for his performance as Professor Henry Higgins in the theatrical group’s production of the musical “My Fair Lady.”

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