Ottumwa Cemetery oak tree will soon be a statue to honor history

Chainsaw sculptor Gary Keenan begins carving tree in Ottumwa Cemetery

The remains of an oak tree will soon be a statue to honor history, and some of Iowa's fallen Civil War soldiers.

The tree stood in Ottumwa's Cemetery for an estimated 300 years, but its limbs had to be torn down in August after being infected with a fungal disease called Oak Wilt. On Tuesday, Des Moines based carver Gary Keenan began carving the tree's remaining trunk into a Civil War soldier that will stand in the cemetery over the final resting place of Civil War families.

â??It seems that people appreciate this,â?? Keenan said. â??I carve also at the Iowa State Fair and the Kansas State Fair, and it's just been a very popular art form in recent years, so I enjoy doing it, and hopefully the community appreciates and enjoys the piece. I think it will be a very nice addition to the town.â??

If the weather holds up, Keenan anticipates on completing the sculpture by next week. The project is being coordinated by the Ottumwa Area Arts Council and funded through a Legacy grant.