Richard DeVuono has been creating bronze statues, fountains and benches for over 25 years, and the Wallkill Hook, Ladder and Hose Company was his most recent accomplishment.
Florida resident DeVuono owns Bronze Depot, an organization that offers and sells different bronze objects to different groups. A few months back, the Wallkill Hook, Ladder and Hose Company reached out to DeVuono upon interest in a memorial. “I believe they found me on the internet. They did a search for fallen firefighter memorials, and that’s how they found me,” said Devuono.
DeVuono recently traveled with his wife, Maria DeVuono to the Wallkill Hook, Ladder and Hose Company to see the statue. He was greeted by life member and President of Orange County Volunteer Firemen’s Association Delbe Spath, President of Wallkill Fire Company and Hudson Valley Firefighters Association Eric Orr, and Chair for the Wallkill Firefighters Benevolent Association Joseph T. Smith.
Throughout the process, DeVuono sent them pictures as the statue was being made. “Each one is customized. Each one has that particular fire department’s logo and name on the helmet. They’re not all generic and not all exactly the same,” DeVuono stated.
The funding for the statue was coordinated by the Firefighters Benevolent Association, although DeVuono works with fire departments if they don’t already have the funding.
“We put a program together where they can tell us that they want to get into it. They have one, two or more volunteers and then we sit down with them and make badges up with the department’s logo on it and their name. We give them a booklet with some pictures of the statues and we have a script for them which is written because these people are just volunteers. They’re not generally salespeople, so they need help. If they have any questions they call us and they go out there and they raise the money for the statue themselves,” said DeVuono, who called it a free fundraising kit.
As for a response to the statue now kneeling next to their year-old-building, Orr mentioned that those who have seen it have said it looks great.
“I think it’s a great tribute to the folks that led us in the fire service from Wallkill, those that came before us and those that’ll pass after us. It’ll be a tribute to live for generations,” said Orr.
The firefighter statue, which is awaiting to be accompanied by two plaques, has been outside the department for about a month.
“They got it about a month ago. It’s about a three to four month process depending on the logistics at the time, but the statue itself takes about six to seven weeks to make,” said DeVuono, who called the statue “very, very detailed.”
DeVuono spoke a little bit about the process, stating that it isn’t as simple as people think.
“The piece is sculpted in clay. It’s life size and kneeling, so it’s about four feet tall on the knees. After it is sculpted in clay, it is cut into thin pieces, and then the molds are made from the pieces of sculpted clay,” said DeVuono, who noted that this statue was made from up to 40 different molds.
After this, it is welded together and painted with acid to achieve a two-tone darker color.
Orr speaks on behalf of the department who are all excited that the statue is now there.
“It was a great idea a few guys came up with,” he said. “And we’re really happy that we can make it happen.”