Local Couple Fights To Keep Iconic Statue In San Diego

'Unconditional Surrender' Statue At Midway Museum Scheduled To Be Moved At End Of Month

An iconic statue is set to leave San Diego by the end of February, but a local couple is working to make sure that does not happen.

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The 25-foot tall "Unconditional Surrender" statue stands near the Midway Museum on the Embarcadero. It has been on loan for the last five years, but it is set to go back to artist J. Seward Johnson's Sculpture Foundation in Santa Monica in a couple of weeks.

Architect Donald J. Reeves and his wife, Julia, were high school sweethearts during World War II, when Donald eventually joined the Navy.

The statue has a special meaning for them, so they are determined to keep the kissing sailor and nurse in San Diego.

"We want to make it a story that people tell their children," explained Donald Reeves.

The foam and urethane statue is not designed to endure the ravages of time and weather, and it is in need of repair.

Donald Reeves wants to install a painted bronze version in the same location, permanently. While it would cost $990,000, Reeves said, "It's just one small gesture that I think we owe San Diego, we owe the sailors."

Right now, the money is not the statue's biggest obstacle. The Port of San Diego's Public Art Committee is.

The advisory group voted no to a permanent statue because the majority of the members said it does not meet artistic standards.

Committee member Michael Krichman said the review criteria was set by the Port's board. The criteria includes that art donations for the Port have artistic excellence and creativity. Krichman said he and others do not feel "Unconditional Surrender" meets the criteria.

The statue is based on the iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York's Times Square on V-J Day in August 1945. The kiss caught in the photo was natural, not posed, and that spontaneity was thought to have captured the mood of the time.

"So many people don't know the story of WWII," said Julia Reeves.

She said the statue stirs deep emotion for her partly because it represents victory for the U.S. after a difficult chapter in history. She hopes the statue will be here for future generations so they never forget.

The couple is looking for donations to cover the cost of a permanent statue.

The Port's board of directors is set to discuss the issue Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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