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Art ingrains heroes in minds

One solemn piece of artwork compels Capital City Bank customers to pause and reflect on an American tragedy.

Feb. 1 will mark a year since the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. Since Jan. 12, a hand-carved wooden sculpture of the seven astronauts who died on the shuttle has been displayed near the bank's main entrance.

"We live in such a busy world. It seems like everyone forgets," said Robin Falkenburg, senior office manager of the Capital City Bank branch at 101 SE U.S. 19. "It's been a real reminder."

The replica, made by Crystal River resident Richard Grenier, shows the seven astronauts wearing bright orange space suits and standing with the mission patch and the flags of the United States and Israel. The Columbia crew included the first Israeli astronaut.

Grenier, 74, said he made the replica to honor the astronauts and to make sure people remember the tragedy.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Grenier constructed a wooden replica of the three firefighters who hoisted the American flag at the ruined World Trade Center site. That item also was on display at the bank.

After former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, Grenier carved a wood replica of the Kennedy brothers, which he said is on display at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

Grenier, a 1952 Korean War veteran, also makes his replicas for people who have lost someone in the armed services and for the firefighters and police officers who don't know if they will return home after work.

"You've got to remember that," Grenier said.

"They're doing all this for us," said his wife, Lillian.

It took Grenier about three weeks to construct the 1{-foot-tall astronauts. Grenier whittled the details of each astronaut's hair, eyes, cheeks and noses, while his wife painted the astronauts' faces, hair and suits.

Grenier has been making wooden replicas all his life. His wife said she didn't know about his talent until after the couple had their fourth child.

Grenier remembers that his father, who died when Grenier was 7, enjoyed whittling and playing the violin. Today, Grenier continues his father's craft in his memory.

Grenier wore a shiny brass violin belt buckle to the Crystal River Capital City Bank one day last week and gave employees a detailed 4-inch-tall violin on a stand as a gift this past holiday season.

Often, after Grenier finishes making a craft, he puts the names of his kids in a bag and draws the name of the child to receive it as a gift. So far, three of the Grenier children have a handmade craft.

Sooner or later, Mrs. Grenier said, all six children will have at least one hand-carved wooden item to call their own.

Crystal River resident Richard Grenier carved replicas of the seven astronauts killed almost a year ago aboard the space shuttle Columbia. The artwork is displayed at Capital City Bank, 101 SE U.S. 19, which has shown his work before.

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