YOUNGSTOWN – The Jackie Robinson-George Shuba statue project has reached its fundraising goal of $400,000, thanks to a $175,000 grant from an Oregon charitable foundation.
The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, based in Wilsonville, Ore., near Portland, approved the grant after its co-founder, Sally Bany, watched a CBS Sunday Morning segment on the statue in September.
“It is so important to build memorials to people and events that bring Americans together,” Bany said. “The 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba was such an important moment in our nation’s history and truly reflects the best of us… Our hope is that this statue reminds generations of Americans about the importance of reaching across our racial differences to advance equality, fairness and unity.”
Ernie Brown, co-chair of the statue project committee, said the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation’s executive director, Rachael Sneddon, contacted the committee after watching the Sept. 27 CBS broadcast and asked about providing whatever funding was needed to complete the fundraising campaign.
The grant brings total donations above the committee’s $400,000 goal.
“We are thrilled that a group we never even heard of shares our mindset about this statue and the values it reflects and has stepped up with such a tremendous gift,” Brown said.
The statue will celebrate the April 18, 1946, handshake between Jackie Robinson, the first African American allowed to compete in mainstream professional baseball, and George Shuba, his white teammate from Youngstown.
The handshake followed a three-run homer by Robinson in his debut game with the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. When neither of the teammates who scored on Robinson’s homer waited at home plate to congratulate him, Shuba, the on-deck batter, stepped up to shake his hand.
That handshake, captured in photographs, became known as “a handshake for the century,” as it marked the start of racial integration of professional baseball and, eventually, much of American life.
“George Shuba’s simple but profound gesture of acceptance reflected his Youngstown upbringing and Youngstown values,” said Greg Gulas, another co-chair of the project committee. “As a result, Youngstowners have shared the story of that handshake with pride for decades. Now we’re so excited about this moment being memorialized with a huge, beautiful bronze statue in downtown Youngstown.”
From the start of the campaign, folks with Youngstown roots contributed their time and knowledge to the project, and this final donation is another example, Gulas and Brown note.
The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation is named for Sally Bany’s grandmother, Marie Lamfrom, who was born and raised in Germany, served as a nurse in World War I and fled to the United States in the 1930s after the Nazis came to power. She and her husband settled in Portland and purchased a small hat company in 1937 that is the forerunner of Columbia Sportswear Co., a publicly traded company that sells its brand apparel, accessories and equipment in 90 countries, according to Columbia.com.
Lamfrom was involved in Girl Scouts in Oregon for more than 44 years as a troop leader, board member and delegate to the national convention.
Sally Bany’s father, Neal Boyle, lived in Youngstown as a child before attending the University of Arizona where he met his future wife, Gert Lamfrom, Marie’s daughter.
Neal ran the sportswear company until he died suddenly in 1970, leaving the company to his wife. Gert Boyle died in 2019. Her son, Tim Boyle, today is chairman, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear.
The Robinson-Shuba statue will be dedicated in Wean Park, downtown, on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of the handshake. The statue will stand nearly 7 feet above its base and will be surrounded by seating to support programming about racial equality. BSHM Architects, a Youngstown-based firm, has donated the design work for the memorial.
Marc Mellon, a Connecticut sculptor known for his bronze works honoring Pope John Paul II, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama and many prominent athletes, is making the statue.
Pictured at top: Sculptor Marc Mellon applies finishing touches to the final model of the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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