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Keane statue may find home at Scottsdale railroad park

The Scottsdale McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park may become the home of a larger-than-life bronze statue honoring the lifetime achievement of famed cartoonist Bil Keane.

Mr. Keane took the moments families have all shared, gave them a quiet humor anyone could relate to, and then gave those everyday occurrences an allure akin to the spectacle of a traveling circus.

Paradise Valley Town Hall was the original location chosen by the Keane family, but as public interest grew the coming landmark may be a better fit for the Scottsdale railroad park.

“The main reason for looking at other places is because the Keane family felt the location at the Town Hall would not be seen by many people,” Mary Hamway, former Paradise Valley vice mayor, said in a May 24 e-mail. “They feel that the statue should be in a park.”

The idea is to create a 9-by-7-foot bronze statute coined “Giddy-up Daddy” installed either at a site at the Paradise Valley Municipal Complex, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, or at the Scottsdale railroad park.

“The town has a history of donating to different projects at the railroad park, so it seemed like the natural place,” Ms. Hamway said noting the recent gift of the Friendship Tunnel at the Scottsdale park. “Park officials and the Keane family are working out the details, which might include using an existing building to house an interactive display about cartooning and could also be a mini-museum for some of ‘The Family Circus’ cartoons.”

Jeff Keane, the youngest of Mr. Keane’s children who carries on the family tradition as the artist of The Family Circus comic strip, says the Scottsdale location could be a great fit.

“The location at the park, to us, means it would be a place where people would see it,” he said in a May 30 phone interview. “The Town of Paradise Valley originally approached us, but when they saw the scope of the statue the idea of the park came about.”

Jeff points out he and his four siblings attended school in Scottsdale and his father’s church was in Scottsdale as well.

“It was sort of a win-win in the sense of the community,” he said of the close ties to both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. “It really is a statue that celebrates families.”

Mr. Keane, a resident of Paradise Valley prior to its incorporation, created the beloved newspaper cartoon “Family Circus” that at the height of its popularity was syndicated in over 1,500 newspapers across the United States.

Mr. Keane passed away Nov. 8, 2011.

The “Family Circus” cartoon began in 1960 and was based on a family mirroring Mr. Keane’s own, and who lived in a town called Happy Valley.

The creation of the local memorial including the statues, landscaping and lighting would cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

Ms. Hamway announced to Paradise Valley Town Council May 23 that new locations were being sought.

Bob McNair, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park supervisor, says the Keane family has walked the premise of the Scottsdale grounds.

“That is really as far as it has gotten,” he said in a May 30 phone interview. “They are looking are looking to see if it is the best fit.”

Ms. Hamway has earmarked Nov. 8, 2013, which would then be the second anniversary of Mr. Keane ‘s passing, as a potential date for the official unveiling of the sculpture.

“If we can make it fit, it would be great to have,” Mr. McNair said of Scottsdale’s interest in the statue.

In late March, Glendale resident Manya Long notified Ms. Hamway she was interested in committing $20,000 to the effort, which ensures enough has been raised to ensure the statue will be erected either in Paradise Valley or Scottsdale, According to Ms. Hamway.

Ms. Hamway says Ms. Long is making the donation in the name of her late parents -- Mary and John F. Long. John F. Long was a major West Valley developer and home builder, best known for developing the Phoenix community known as Maryvale.

The current fundraising total reached prior to Ms. Long’s donation was $58,000 launched by a January 2013 community event held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Ms. Long’s donation brings that total to $78,000, which Ms. Hamway says is enough to move forward with the creation of the bronze statue, but more donations are sought to ensure the entire memorial landmark.

Ms. Hamway contends the best place for the memorial statute is where it will be seen by the most people.

“It is the legacy to their father and that is why I want them involved and happy about the final location,” she said of her conversations with the Keane family. “Most who donated did so to honor Bil Keane, not to have public art on the Town Hall campus.”

The Keane family is known for its community involvement, supporting projects such as the artwork for the annual National Food Drive.

Other notable projects include the Paradise Valley Jazz Festival, Paradise Valley Safety Swimming campaigns, Paradise Valley 50th Year Celebration and Paradise Valley annual vintage car show.

“The Family Circus,” in one way or another, is an American keepsake.

“At the end of the day, Bil Keane is an American icon, and an important Arizonan,” Ms. Hamway explained. “Having the statue in a place that would be seen by thousands is a positive thing and a gracious and generous gift from the town.”

Mr. Keane was a recipient of the Arizona Heritage Award.

News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 via e-mail at tthornton@newszap.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/nvnewsman

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