Adapted from an article by Paul Heller that appeared in The Bridge on November 19, 2009.
In 1986, Norwich University dedicated a memorial to Major General and University President Ernest Harmon that was created by local sculptor Frank Gaylord. Nine years later, in 1995, Gaylord’s most famous work was dedicated—19 stainless steel statues of soldiers representing a platoon on patrol, a centerpiece of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Barre sculptor Frank Gaylord served as a medical corpsman during World War II. Though he never met Harmon, the colorful warrior was the stuff of legend among the combat veterans of the war in Europe—as well as the denizens of central Vermont, where he transformed Norwich University into an institution of national stature and unique character.
Returning to sculpting after the war, the young Gaylord came to Barre where he assisted sculptor Bruno Sarzanini, who had emigrated from Carrara, Italy, after the war. Sarzanini established his studio at the Rock of Ages facility in Northfield; one of his early commissions was the 1955 statue of Norwich founder Alden Partridge for the new university president, General Ernest Harmon. The statue was largely a community effort, with materials and labor contributed by many local granite firms. Gaylord carved part of the left leg.
After General Harmon’s death in 1979 at age 85, Norwich University planned to memorialize one of its greatest presidents with a monument similar in scope to the Partridge statue. As the budget for the project became final, the plan for a full-figure statue was exchanged for a bas-relief which would still comprise significant amounts of Barre granite but require less carving at Gaylord’s studio on Blackwell Street in Barre. The face and binoculars-in-hand were all that remained from Gaylord’s original design and were carved by Gaylord in his studio.
In preparation for the Harmon statue, Gaylord read the general’s arresting autobiography, Combat Commander, a revealing look at a consummate warrior whose lack of regard for protocol and politics left his career stalled short of the full rank of general, but who transitioned easily into the role of president of Norwich University. Gaylord also talked to local people who knew the legendary soldier and gathered their reminiscences of this remarkable man.
The granite memorial on the Norwich campus was the result of a competition. The best sculptors in central Vermont were asked to submit designs and Frank Gaylord’s proposal was selected. The monument was dedicated on September 27, 1986. Almost ten years after the dedication of the Harmon statue, Gaylord’s memorial in Washington to “the forgotten war,” Korea, would permanently establish his reputation as a great artist and steward of American history.
Paul Heller lives in Barre and is a member of the Barre Historical Society. This story is part of his series about notable monuments fashioned from Barre granite.