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Dixon remembers Reagan with plans for new statue

There’s going to be a new way to remember Ronald Reagan in Dixon on what would have been his 103rd birthday.

It’s a sculpture to connect the former president with his boyhood home.

Thursday’s rendering unveiling reveals Reagan’s personality and presence. This will be a seven-foot tall bronze sculpture. It will capture his lifeguard days in Dixon.

“Usually he’s in a business suit, presidential,” said artist Gary Tillery. “This was the earlier Reagan. He was young, vibrant and athletic.”

Making the project a reality will take corporate and community donors. Volunteers will hold a variety of events. They hope to complete the statue by 2015.

They’ll eventually place the $200,000 project in Lowell Park. It’s where young Dutch Reagan taught swimming and saved lives.

Tom Whitcombe’s dad, Bert, was one of the lucky ones.

“He struck his head on the end of the diving board on the way down and lost consciousness and fell in the water,” Tom recalled. “Ronald Reagan pulled him out.”

30 years ago on Thursday, Reagan visited his boyhood home in Dixon. That bond continues to grow each year from a caring community.

“We never know where our path leads,” said Brandi Langner, executive director of the boyhood home and visitors center. “We’re going to be asking our guests, where do you think your path leads? What would you like to see happen in your life?”

Memories from that day still fill the house. There are photos and stories about a future president. It’s a compelling tale about the American Dream, and a Dixon boy who never forgot his roots.

“I love and remember Dixon,” Ronald Reagan recalled in 1990. “And yes, Dixon is the place I always know I can come home to.”

Hundreds turned out four years ago to see another bronze of Reagan. It depicts Reagan from a 1950 parade stop in Dixon.

The new statue will also touch on nostalgia and history.

“When he was out there life-guarding at 16 and 17, I doubt if he ever thought that someday there would be a statue for him,” said Dixon Mayor Jim Burke.

It will bring history alive along the Rock River. A lasting look at the lad who would be president.

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