TROY — The fundraising for the Mayor Peter E. Jenkins Memorial Sculpture Project is nearing to a close as the life-size, bronze statue depicting “Mayor Pete” continues being built, looking at a May unveiling ceremony.
Former Troy Mayor Peter “Pete” Jenkins passed away on Nov. 14, 2018, following a lengthy illness. He was 84 years old.
Ted Mercer, a Troy resident and Miami County Commissioner, pursued the project, heading a two-person committee with Julie Morrison, a former administrative assistant to Jenkins. Jenkins’ impact on the community and his legacy of kindess were part of what inspired Mercer to push for a statue of Jenkins to memorialize “Mayor Pete.”
“I believe in honoring people who make big impacts on our community, and Pete was one of those people,” Mercer said. Mercer served on the Troy City Council during Jenkins’ time as mayor and remembered Jenkins as a “kind man” who “never knew a stranger.”
“That was just the way he felt he needed to treat people,” Mercer said.
Jenkins was a lifelong resident of Troy and a Troy High School graduate. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruth; their children, David Jenkins, Mary Jenkins Barker, and Julia Jenkins Melle; and five grandchildren.
Jenkins was a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland and worked for Hobart Brothers for 31 years, including as director of human resources. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Jenkins was a public servant of Troy for 25 years. He served on Troy City Council from Jan. 1, 1978, to Dec. 31, 1981. He served as president of city council from Jan. 1, 1982, to Dec. 31, 1991, and then as mayor from Jan. 1, 1992, until Dec. 31, 2003. Jenkins received the Distinguished Service Award in 2004, the Community Service Award in 1979, and the Outstanding Young Man of the Year honor in 1962. He also served on numerous community boards.
The fundraising goal for the project was $80,000, and they are within approximately $2,000 of that goal. Three local foundations contributed to the project, pledging a total of $50,000. The Troy Foundation awarded a $30,000 grant to construct a 6-foot, life-sized sculpture and statue of Jenkins, and the project also received a $10,000 grant from the Duke Foundation and a $10,000 grant from the Robinson Foundation. Approximately 60 people from the community also donated to the project.
“It’s been positive,” Mercer said about the community response to the project. He added that no tax dollars have gone toward this project.
The sculptor for the project is Mike Major of Urbana, who previously created the Paul G. Duke statue that is located at Duke Park in Troy and the William H. Pitsenbarger statue in Piqua. The statue is currently in the clay phase, but it will be a six-foot bronze statue on a concrete base that is being donated as well. The sculpture features Jenkins’ signature suit and tie as he waves to all residents and visitors off of West Main Street.
Mercer said that he made sure the project was OK’d by current Troy Mayor Michael Beamish, the Troy Board of Park Commissioners, and the Service and Safety director of the city of Troy before seeking the blessing of Jenkins’ wife Ruth.
“I feel very honored, and I’m very grateful to Ted Mercer for his suggestion to do this,” said Ruth Jenkins, who said she thought her husband would be “honored and humbled” by this statue memorializing him.
“He loved his city,” Ruth said. “He grew up here, and he loved Troy. He loved the people in Troy. He was just such an advocate for economic development, and he had a lot of success with that.”
Ruth said Pete would make it a priority to get to know people in Troy.
“He believed in knowing all of his constituents, especially the (city) employees,” Ruth said. She said he would visit all of the departments in the city and was especially close to the firefighters and police officers.
“He really had his thumb on the pulse of the community,” Ruth said.
Ruth recently went with Mercer and others to see the current clay version of the statue, offering small tweeks before it gets to the final casting.
“That was a wonderful experience,” Ruth said. “I could tell immediately … that it was Pete.”
Ruth said that she was grateful to Mercer for honoring Pete in this way, saying their children loved the idea as well.
The sculpture will be located at the Jenkins Gateway Mayor’s Park in Troy. The green space park is located at 1611 W. Main St., near the Westbrook neighborhood. An unveiling ceremony is expected to happen sometime in May 2020.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.