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Bronze turtle finds home at nature center

Bronze turtle finds home at nature center

April 17th, 2011 in News

Ireland Sczepanski, 10 months, sits with Benjamin, 7, and Kennady Rowe, 8, atop the newest sculpture at the Runge Nature Center.

Photo by Stephen Brooks

Runge Nature Center dedicated a new life-size bronze turtle to six volunteers Saturday.

Jan Burrus, Golda Trower, Gail Oehrke, Clarence (Gabby) Higgins, Nadine Marshall and Pearl Gentili gave more than 22,000 combined hours of service to the center during their lifetimes.

Private donations and ... <!-- a Conservation Heritage Foundation grant of more than $35,000 made the memorial sculpture possible.

Runge commissioned local artist Tom Schulte to sculpt the three-toed box turtle.

Schulte spent almost 3 years constructing the turtle during off-hours from his fulltime job as a general contractor.

Working from a photo of an actual three-toed box turtle, Schulte created a mold out of styrofoam, wood, plaster and rubber before casting the finished product in bronze.

The dark, natural color of the bronze fits in well at the nature center, and allows for fine detail, said nature center manager Kathy Cavender.

"It will be an educational tool and help us recognize the commitment of our volunteers," she added.

The three-toed box turtle is native to Missouri and with its enduring qualities, long life span, and non-threatening, patient demeanor, the turtle embodies the qualities of Runge Nature Center volunteers, Cavender explained.

Runge volunteers go through an extensive application process and 30 hours of training before being allowed to give tours of the trails and habitats at the center.

Schulte's two grown children volunteered at the center as teenagers and his youngest daughter, Annelise, completed volunteer training April 7.

"I came home everyday with a smile on my face," Annelise said of the training.

Anne Hutton wears that same smile.

She also completed the April training, and as a retired high school biology teacher, she is looking forward to having another avenue for educating students.

The sculpture dedication fell right in line with National Volunteer Appreciation Month.

"And we appreciate our volunteers," Cavender said. "They are the backbone, heart and soul of what we do." -->