The Evansville Courier, April 8, 2007

Honoring George Honig

By Kate Braser
Photos by Kate Braser and Denny Simmons

George Honig in 1957

When Raymond Dawson read in a recent Courier & Press story that a plaque by a nationally known artist was stored in the basement of an Evansville business, he wasn't surprised.

The story rang true with his and his wife Patricia's experiences trying to track down Rockport, Ind., native George Honig's works over the last eight years.

From the large bronze statues outside the Coliseum in Downtown Evansville to historical plaques scattered all over the state and country, Honig spent his life memorializing people in bronze and stone.

Dawson said Honig's artwork helped him make a living through the Great Depression.

Now the Dawsons, of Rockport, are dedicating a good part of their retirement to ensuring Honig is not forgotten.

Dawson, a part-time computer technician for the South Spencer School Corp., is in the midst of constructing a Web site in Honig's memory.

The couple's exhaustive research is geared toward a purpose they know well - education. Both retired from teaching careers in 1999. Their research on Honig began almost immediately.

"We have just been really shocked to find a nationally recognized artist from here, and so little is known of him around here," Raymond Dawson said.

He wrote a letter to the editor after reading a recent article in the Courier & Press that said a Honig plaque in memory of Joe Cook, a famous comedian and actor in the 1920s and '30s, was in storage in the old Mulberry Center building.

That the plaque was stuck in storage instead of being on display didn't surprise the Dawsons.

The couple said they are used to blank stares after asking where a certain plaque by Honig might be. More than once, their questions have led to a dusty plaque being recovered from an attic or basement.

That was the case of a plaque now secured to a limestone pillar and displayed in Henderson, Ky. The couple said residents there located Honig's Audubon plaque in storage at the Audubon Museum.

Dawson's curiosity about Honig began as a boy. He grew up at the end of Rockport's Main Street near the Lincoln Pioneer Village that Honig designed, and he spent hours playing on the grounds.

As an adult, Dawson would pass by a profile of Lincoln's head on the wall of South Spencer High School, where he taught. In time, Dawson learned the profile was a replica of one at the entrance to Lincoln Pioneer Village, also made by Honig.

Asked why Honig's works are so scattered and why so little is known of him locally, Dawson explained Honig and his wife, Alda, had no children. Alda died first, and by the time George died he didn't have many relatives in the area.

Dawson said much of Honig's work has been sold repeatedly at estate sales over the years. Recently, the couple found a collection of Honig's paintings at an antique store in Newburgh.

The Dawsons said Honig's work is at risk of not being preserved. They cite a Honig plaque that has a tree growing around it outside the Rathbone Retirement Community at 1320 SE Second St. as an example.

"Our fear is that these works of art will become lost," Dawson said.