KEARNS — Lt. Daniel Nevot, a French war hero in World War II, was immortalized Friday night as a statue depicting him and a fellow soldier was cast in bronze.
Half a dozen men poured the bronze into a mold that had been prepared over the past few weeks through an intensive and thorough process in a warehouse west of Salt Lake City. After pouring the bronze, workers cooled the pieces and carefully chipped away the cast, revealing the bronze heads of Nevot and his fellow soldier.
Stan Watts, owner of Atlas Bronze Casting, has created approximately 50 statues since he began in this line of work. Watts gained national recognition for his statue of three firefighters raising an American flag at ground zero following 9/11. The statue, 22 feet tall, stands at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Maryland.
Watts' warehouse is filled with molds and casts of upcoming statues and smaller models of past statues. Each one has a story that has stuck with Watts, and Nevot's is no different.
As a young man, Nevot and two other French soldiers disguised themselves as Arabs one day, said Nevot's grandson-in-law, Eric Probasco.
"They sneaked into the Italian garrison," Probasco said. "The commander was counting his troops' payroll and they took him prisoner. They ordered him onto the public address system and had him call his troops to the courtyard."
Nevot and the two other men proceeded to convince the group of approximately 150 Italian soldiers that the French had them surrounded. They turned the Italians' own machine guns on them while they held them prisoner until the three men were able to radio for reinforcements.
Nevot, who is now in his late 80s, retired in France, then came to live in St. George, based on a long-standing fascination with the American West, Probasco said. Nevot commissioned the statue and arranged to have it placed at his regimental headquarters in Colmar, France, Probasco said.
"He wanted a statue of common soldiers," Probasco said. "He said there weren't enough of those."
The statue, which is 1 ?1/2 times life size and will be called "French Freedom Fighters," will be delivered to France this summer by Nevot and his family.
In addition to the statues of the three firefighters and Nevot's soldiers, Watts has completed prominent statues of Abraham Lincoln and Booker T. Washington, as well as pieces that now sit internationally, one as far away as the United Arab Emirates.
"He's a very passionate artist," Probasco said of Watts. "I am so impressed by what he does."
Watts works with his two sons and a nephew, along with a handful of other men, to create pieces that really stand out and stand for something.
"There's something about that pouring that you can't get out of your blood," Watts said with a smile.
Nearly a dozen men worked late into the night Friday, and they all did it with passion. Don Snarr has been working with Watts for more than 10 years on and off.
"I go away sometimes to do my own art, but I always come back," Snarr said. "We all love this."