Bonney Lake left stunned, saddened after thieves steal ‘The Ascent’ statue

Sep 11, 2023, 10:15 AM | Updated: 10:31 am

Image: Photo of Image: Photo of Photo of A photo of the installation of "The Ascent" by Larry Anderson in 1994 This photo shows the pillar where “The Ascent” created by Larry Anderson stood before it was stolen. Image: Gathering in Bonney Lake A brochure for Ascent park featuring images of A brochure for Ascent park featuring images of

If you’ve ever driven into Bonney Lake on State Route 410, you’ve probably noticed the bronze statue of a little boy lifting his arms to a flock of flying birds, and the signs welcoming you to the city.

Now, it’s gone, taken by thieves who could never understand what it means to the community.

Under the cover of darkness, sometime between August 24th and 25th, Bonney Lake Police say somebody made their way through the brush behind the signs, climbed a 10-foot-tall pedestal of stones, cut the bolts off the statue by nationally acclaimed artist Larry Anderson and hauled it away.

Anderson’s creation, called “The Ascent” has been a fixture at that site since 1994.

The artist, who moved to Bonney Lake in the early 1990s, died in 2018. His artistic talents and eyesight were taken away by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.

His widow, Sharilyn Anderson was stunned when she learned his significant creation in their hometown was gone.

“It was unbelievable to me” she said. “I couldn’t imagine someone would do such a thing. I didn’t understand it.”

“The Ascent” has become part of the culture of Bonney Lake. It’s even printed on some of the city’s official stationery.

Looking back: Creating “The Ascent”

Sharilyn Anderson was with her husband when he was offered the commission to create the statue, and shared why he chose the image of the little boy, raising his arms to touch a flock of flying birds.

“He wanted something welcoming. He wanted something that symbolized the city and the possibilities of living here,” she recalled. “He wanted to emphasize enthusiasm, play for children, and really the interaction between nature and people.”

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But more than anything, “He wanted something that would lift people up so when they came into the city, they felt a sense of joy and wonder; that this was a good place to raise a family,” she said.

“The Ascent” also has a deep personal connection to Sharilyn Anderson.

Her husband used their son Caplan as the model for the boy. He was in middle school at the time, and Sharilyn said Larry and Caplan spent many hours over many days getting the pose just right.

“My husband had him hanging from the rafters with chains and all kinds of things, so that he could get him in that position, on one foot, lifting up,” Sharilyn said.

And when “The Ascent” was completed, Sharilyn played a significant role in how it was placed upon that tall pillar of stones.

“When Larry installed it, we couldn’t figure out just how to position it, what direction the boy should be,” she laughed. “And so, he had me climb up there with a ladder with a rake upside down, to simulate the birds. I stood up there on one leg, with that crazy rake and he went up and down the freeway, looking at it. First, I turned one way and then the other, and he tried to figure out how it would best be (positioned).”

And that’s where it stood, for 29 years. Sharilyn says it must have taken a lot of work to wrestle it off that pillar.

“First of all, it was hard to get to. It’s not an easy thing to run off with. That was a bafflement to me, that someone would even attempt to do such a thing.”

Many in Bonney Lake share the family’s disbelief

City Council member Tom Watson was friends with Larry Anderson. He has lived there since 1995.

“He (Larry) had so much of a caring heart for Bonney Lake.” Watson said, “The statue that he did with his son and the birds meant so much to the Bonney Lake community. And then all of a sudden I found out it was gone. It’s like we’re missing a part of Bonney Lake, somehow.”

The Bonney Lake Police Department has opened an investigation into the theft and are asking people who may have information about it to come forward.

But Sharilyn doesn’t hold out much hope, even though others believe it will be returned.

“I’ve had such an outpouring of love,” she said. “(It has) been very healing, and folks are saying they want the thieves to bring it back. But, in my heart of hearts, I don’t believe they will. I don’t believe it’s a prank.”

Watson is more blunt about it, after finding what the thieves left behind.

“We found part of a battery from whatever they used to cut it down with and cut into pieces and melt it,” he said.

Previous crime coverage: Tacoma Police believe they’ve busted a teen crime ring

Watson said that whatever happened, the thieves hauled away much more than the weight of the bronze and other metals.

“The value is nothing, compared to what it means to us in Bonney Lake.”

Sharilyn says it feels as if she’s lost a piece of her husband.

“Larry had Parkinson’s disease, and I couldn’t protect him from the ravages of that disease,” she sobbed. “I just felt bereft I couldn’t protect his artwork.”

It’s not known how the city will move forward if the statue is not found.

But Watson says he and other council members have started a discussion.

The city’s arts commission will most likely come up with a plan to replace it. And, since the city has grown significantly since “The Ascent” was installed, it’s likely a greater part of the community will be invited to decide what to do next.

In a news release, police are asking anyone with information about the statue to call the Bonney Lake Tip Line at (253) 447-3231, or email Detective@cobl.us.

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Bonney Lake left stunned, saddened after thieves steal ‘The Ascent’ statue