Sculptor's daughter reacts to recovery of stolen TJC statue - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Sculptor's daughter reacts to recovery of stolen TJC statue

A Tyler Junior College statue is back where it belongs after going missing for almost a decade.

The unveiling of the returned statue was Thursday and the family is thrilled their father's work has returned to its rightful place.

"Mr. Jenkins got to travel around for a while and now he's finally coming home and he's grounded," said Joni Harper-Gonni, the daughter of John Harper.

John Harper is the artist who made the sculpture in 1986.

He was an East Texas native, born in Henderson

His family says he has always been interested in art.

"The memories I have are all about his painting and his sculpting started a little bit later in his life. Most of his sculptures revolved around Western art or cowboys, Indians, horses and things like that. He did everything related to the Old West," said Joni.

The self-taught artist passed away in 1994 but his art still makes a name for itself in Texas.

One of his pieces named the Prince and Brownie, was sculpted by John in 1985.

John's sister said only 15 of these were made and one of them sits at the capitol in the Governor's office.

He presented the piece to Governor Bill Clements in 1986.

With the statue back, their family has found a missing piece of their father.

"I was very happy because I think that's a missing part of my dad that had been gone for almost twenty years and I don't have my dad anymore. So that statue and every piece of art that he's ever sculpted, that's the bond that we have with him, is his art," said Joni.

Although John is no longer here, Joni thinks she can speak for him.

"I think that he would find a way to interject some humor into it and make some kind of a joke about how Mr. Jenkins really got around and traveled quite a bit," said Joni.

TJC officials say the sculpture is going to be kept inside from now on, at Jenkins hall on the TJC campus in Tyler.

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