KIRKLAND – With his 18th birthday fast approaching, Marty McDermott needed to complete a service project so he could earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
His mother, Susi McDermott, suggested he look no further than their parish, St. John Mary Vianney in Kirkland, and a wooden statue of the Madonna and Child standing outside the church.
“My mom suggested I work on the statue since it was really falling apart and could use some touching up,” Marty said.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 565 at St. John Vianney Parish in Kirkland helped sand and refinish a statue as part of fellow scout Marty McDermott’s Eagle Scout project. Photo: Barry McDermott
So Marty enlisted the help of 15 current and former members of Boy Scout Troop 565 (which meets at St. John Vianney), along with some adult volunteers. During a week in early August, they cleaned, sanded and refinished the statue, finishing the project before Marty’s birthday on August 14.
The statue was created several years ago from a madrone tree that was cut down as a safety precaution because it was close to a parish parking lot, according to Laura Stanger, St. John Vianney’s pastoral associate for children and family life ministry.
Stanger asked parishioner Kevin Roscoe, an ice sculptor, to roughly carve out the image of the Madonna and Child in the tree trunk with a chainsaw. He worked on the project over the course of two or three years. In 2010, artist Vladimir Zhikhartsev helped Roscoe smooth out the facial features and finish the piece, she said.
Marty’s restoration project wasn’t the McDermott family’s first connection to the statue.
Its design was inspired by a small statue that Susi McDermott purchased during a trip to Birnau, a pilgrimage site her hometown in Germany, and gave to Stanger.
After the wooden statue was blessed in 2010, it stood “a little bit lonely in a patch of dirt,” Susi McDermott said. The parish women’s group, of which she was a member, decided to lay paving stones around the statue and add flower pots.
“It was hard physical labor,” Susi McDermott said. “No one thought we could do it, but we did.”
That space around the statue is well-used, said parishioner Candi Betts. “People just love the quiet,” she said. “On Sundays, there’s always people there after Mass sitting on the benches.”
Connecting in a new way
Over the years, the statue’s exposure to the elements resulted in cracks and discoloration, said Marty’s father, Barry McDermott, who is a master carpenter and woodworker.
During the restoration process, Marty said, he learned a lot from his dad about what’s required to stain a statue and how to sand out all the flaws. “Sanding was the hardest part,” he said. “That took about two days.”
Originally, they planned to use a clear stain, but decided on a darker stain to hide some of the weathering, Barry McDermott said.
“I was worried it had changed too much,” he said, “but everyone seems to love it.”
Betts, who takes care of the flowers around the statue, said everyone comments on how beautiful the statue is. “It was a lot of work,” she said. “We’re thankful to Marty he took it on as a project.”
Getting ready to refurbish the Madonna and Child statue at St. John Mary Vianney Parish in Kirkland are Troop 565 scouts Erik Wood, left, John Williams, Ethan Tuck, Marty McDermott, Andrew Merz and Spencer Williams. McDermott organized the work as his Eagle Scout project. Photo: Barry McDermott
Barry McDermott said he thinks the restoration will help people connect with the Virgin Mary in a new way.
“After the statue was fixed, something about her face changed,” he said. “Now sometimes she looks like she’s smiling and sometimes she looks pensive.”
The project also gave McDermott more time to connect with Marty before he headed off to college at Central Washington University.
“For him to become an Eagle Scout was a big thing,” Barry McDermott said. “I was happy to see him accomplish this, knowing how important [the statue] is to the parish.”
For Marty, finishing the work and hearing the compliments was the best part.
“I like to think of myself as humble,” he said, “but it was nice to hear all the nice things people said about it. It was rewarding to work on something that everyone puts a lot of stock and faith into.”