Artist RJ Castro continues work on 'River Eagle'

Savanna native and artist RJ Castro of Freeport is designing and sculpting a tribute that recognizes Savanna’s Mississippi River environment, its veterans and coordinates it with the veterans’ monument. The sculpture, which Castro has named “River Eagle, Citizen’s Sculpture,” will be located along Marquette Park. A $10,000 fundraising goal has been set for the sculpture. Contributions can be sent to: River Eagle, Citizen’s Sculpture, Savanna Park District, 225 Bowen St., Savanna, IL 61074.

Chapter One Review—Dave Engaldo, the Holmes Brothers and I met in 2018 to discuss recycling the material and keeping the history of the soon-to-fall 1932 Savanna/Sabula bridge. The new bridge will be named for one of our own hometown men, Dale Gardner. A sculpture using some of the recycled material in Marquette Park along the Mississippi River was discussed.

Chapter Two—As a "Savanna River Rat," Class of "65," and Vietnam vet, I wanted to design and sculpt a tribute that recognized Savanna's Mississippi River environment, our veterans and coordinate with the Veteran Memorial. River Eagle Veteran’s Sculpture was the name I felt met the criteria. The saying, text, meaning for the sculpture will be: “…and they said who will go for us, and I answered, send me.”

Since I live and taught high school art for Freeport Schools, I asked Highland College's Technology Chair Scott Anderson and Welding instructor Rodger Hicks to assist, and weld if needed. Bill Haas also called and offered his expertise.

Our deadline was the June 2020 Savanna Reunion. I also had support and advice from some Savanna High School "65" classmates, and that some of the other classes might want to join the project.

The gang of Engaldo, Haas, Holmes, Castro, Highland College and "65" had a plan and a schedule: "Complete the Mission, dedicate the sculpture, and present it for the 2020 Savanna Reunion. And then our lives changed.

“Veteran” — "A person of long experience in an occupation.” I, like other combat veterans, can talk about duty, deployment, isolation, loneliness, death, fear, sacrifice, dedication.

I would be remiss, in not recognizing those fighting the coronavirus war: our responders, medical, clerks, garbage persons, caretakers, babysitters, family, friends, neighbors.

Today we are all casualties, learning what past wars have done to its citizens, its young, the elders, businesses, schools, shopping, pets, halting and altering life as we knew it. This is making us all veterans

We can contemplate Mother Earth's disappointment with the treatment of her environment: pollution, drilling, waste, killing her animals for sport, destroying her oceans, and resources. Is the virus another warning that we are tipping the balancing of our existence?

Art is man's record of time in history; today we are in a great battle. Knowing our veterans are already being recognized in the nearby monument, I have changed the name of Savanna's Marquette River sculpture to River Eagle, Citizen’s Sculpture.

In closing, I need your input in designing the base of the sculpture, and how to recognize those who make the sculpture a reality. Thanks, R J Castro.

The goal is $10,000. Contributions are 501c3 and can be sent to: River Eagle, Citizen's Sculpture, Savanna Park District, 225 Bowen St., Savanna, Il 61074.

Ref: Captain Abraham Lincoln-Black Hawk War, Burial Detail Sculpture, dedicated 23 June 2018, Black Hawk War Battlefield Park, Kent, Il, RJ Castro-sculptor POC:, 815-821-1426.