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Colorado forgot this WWII hero. A new statue at the Capitol will help it remember.

Even amid an intense national conversation over historical monuments, state lawmakers found consensus to memorialize an often overlooked figure

Loveland sculptor George Lundeen works on a small scale, preliminary version of a sculpture of World War II hero Major General Maurice Rose in his studio on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Once completed, the 10-foot-tall bronze statue will will be installed across the street from the Colorado State Capitol in the newly named Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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In George Lundeen’s second-floor studio, the 3-foot tall clay model of the war hero stands surrounded by military paraphernalia acquired to guarantee historical accuracy, from the general’s two-starred helmet to the cut of his jodhpurs to the way his signature cavalry boots creased from constant wear.

But one conundrum remains: Lundeen, the 72-year-old Loveland sculptor, still wrestles with how to achieve that most telling detail — the facial expression of Major Gen. Maurice Rose, the highly decorated and Denver-bred World War II tank commander. Sixteen photos pinned to a nearby board almost uniformly depict Rose, who engineered critical victories against the Nazis before his death in the war’s final weeks, with a look of calm determination that challenges translation to sculpture.

“How do you visualize that?” Lundeen muses. “I think I’ll do three, four or five heads that will all look like him, but tweak them in different ways. At some point, I’ll have to make a decision to say this is the one. That can get difficult. So that’s yet to be determined.”

What has been determined, even in these uncertain times for historical statuary, is that a larger-than-life-size bronze sculpture of Rose will join others in the newly renamed Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park just west of the state Capitol in Denver. 

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A more than two-year effort to authorize placement of the statue on Capitol grounds culminated in a late-May legislative resolution greenlighting a project driven by Paul Shamon, a retired marketing executive, and Marshall Fogel, a retired lawyer. Fogel has published two books on Rose, whose heroism over two world wars made him at the time of his death the highest-ranking Jewish American military officer. 

In 1949, Denver’s Jewish community honored him by naming its new medical facility General Rose Memorial Hospital — now called HealthOne Rose Medical Center. Later this month,  Gov. Jared Polis is expected to formally announce plans for the monument, with installation anticipated as early as Memorial Day 2022, but no later than the end of 2023. 

More than $300,000 in private funding has been raised for the estimated half-million-dollar gift to the state, which will include an endowment to cover ongoing maintenance, with a final fundraising drive routed through the Rose Community Foundation. The 10-foot tall statue will rest upon an 8-foot granite base featuring Rose’s story inscribed on the four sides. 

Its recommended position at the south end of the park near East 14th Avenue would balance the statue of Pvt. Joe Martinez, the state’s first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in World War II, on the north end while giving both pieces individual space.

“I feel elated,” Fogel says of the plans for the Rose statue, “like we accomplished something, corrected history and recognized how great this guy is and what he did for our country.”

“He was a true Colorado guy,” Shamon adds.  “My idea is that it’s worth two or three years of my time if this monument is going to stand for hopefully hundreds of years and help educate future Coloradans about a great member of our community.”

Gen. Maurice Rose, left, guided the armored division he dubbed Spearhead to decisive victories over Nazi forces during World War II. Here he is pictured in Normandy, France, in 1944. (National Archives)

Service distinguished by heroism

Shamon grew up in Denver and recalls, just as Fogel does, visiting Rose Hospital and seeing a curious artifact under glass — the helmet that Gen. Maurice Rose wore when he was killed on the night of March 30, 1945. A Nazi soldier shot Rose after the general and his driver were surprised at night by a German tank ambush and cornered as they tried to speed toward friendly forces further ahead.

Clearly visible were two bullet holes that penetrated the helmet, which now rests in a military museum in Washington, D.C.

Eventually, Rose doctors would deliver both of Shamon’s children. So it was with those vivid memories that he attended a talk given by Fogel, who recently published an addendum to his bound collection of narrative and documents, “Major General Maurice Rose: The Most Decorated Battletank Commander in U.S. Military History.” 

Fascinated to hear the details of Rose’s life and service, Shamon found himself hooked on the story of the general whose battlefield exploits already were legendary before his death at age 45, just weeks before Germany’s surrender ended the European theater of the war. 

“And then I just started talking to people and nobody knew who Gen. Rose was, even at the hospital and people in town,” Shamon says. “And I just said, this is so wrong, this man did so many great things. And just to let him be forgotten by history?”

And I just said, this is so wrong, this man did so many great things. And just to let him be forgotten by history?

Paul Shamon, on Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose

Rose, the son of a Polish rabbi who emigrated to the United States, was born in Connecticut in the close of the 19th century and arrived in Denver with his family at age 3. After dropping out of East High School he gravitated toward military service and enlisted at 17. He would eventually serve in both 20th-century world wars, but it was his bravery, tactical acumen and the devotion of his troops in the campaign to defeat the Nazis that cemented his place in military history.

In World War I, when he would rise to the rank of captain, Rose famously suffered wounds on a French battlefield, subsequently disappeared from the hospital and was presumed dead. In fact, he had ignored doctors’ orders and returned to his unit. In 1940, he rejoined the Army and climbed the ranks through his success in a relatively new field — tank warfare.

Paul Shamon, a retired marketing executive, helped engineer the effort to honor Major Gen. Maurice Rose with a statue in Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park. (Provided by Paul Shamon)

Fighting with the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions in North Africa, he earned a Silver star — the first of two he would be awarded — for his role in the 1943 battle for Tunisia. Rose was promoted to brigadier general shortly before U.S. forces invaded Sicily.

Weeks after the massive June 1944 D-Day invasion, he earned his second star and was placed in charge of the 3rd Armored Division in Normandy, where he blazed a trail of victories through France and Belgium and finally into Germany. Spearhead, which he dubbed his division for its relentless piercing of German defenses, tore across the landscape in a 100-mile advance in a single day — the longest surge through enemy territory in the early annals of mechanized warfare.

Colorado-based author Adam Makos explores Rose’s legacy in his book “Spearhead,” which focuses on tank gunner Clarence Smoyer, who served under — and revered — his general. (In 2019, Smoyer appeared in Denver on the 74th anniversary of Rose’s death to promote his book and present a painting honoring Rose and the rest of the Spearhead division.) His unit recovered Rose’s body at the site where the German soldier had shot him.

In researching the Spearhead book, Makos and Smoyer tracked down a surviving German tank commander from that encounter whose account held that the soldier who shot Rose — 16 times with a machine pistol — claimed he thought the general was reaching for his sidearm, though Rose’s driver and an aide who managed to escape contended that he was attempting to surrender. 

“When Gen. Rose was killed that night, the U.S. Army was not ready for that. The American homefront was not ready for that,” Makos says. “In hindsight, you could say Rose’s death came at a very tenuous time. He didn’t get to see the laurels, complete the conquest. But his death and life served a purpose. He was a general that his soldiers respected immensely — the man sending them into harm’s way was going with them. He was known for sharing the same risks his troops took.”

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Makos welcomed plans for a statue that’s arguably overdue. 

“As time goes on, our study of what happened back then becomes deeper and more meaningful, and we’ve started to appreciate things we missed before,” he says. “Spearhead division was one of those. I’m thrilled to see that we’ve discovered a great story, at a time when we can fully appreciate it.”

Like so many soldiers who fought on foreign soil, Rose’s body never returned home. He’s buried at The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten. Rose, who climbed the ranks without a West Point pedigree, earned a wide array of U.S. military recognitions — Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars among them — as well as the French Legion of Honor and both the French and Belgian Croix de Guerre.

But recognition that doesn’t appear in his military history stems from construction of the hospital that bears his name. Denver’s Jewish doctors had already planned a new facility that, in a time of segregation, would provide a hospital where they and other minority physicians could freely practice. With Rose’s untimely death, it seemed appropriate to name it in his honor.

When they learned of the fundraising effort for the hospital, soldiers in the 3rd Armored Division collectively contributed more than $30,000 to the effort — or nearly $460,000 in today’s dollars. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who also had a Denver connection through his wife’s family, laid the cornerstone and later returned for the hospital’s dedication.

That Rose, while revered in military circles, never gained the public acclaim of other American generals such as Eisenhower or George Patton likely stemmed from a combination of his understated personality, the secrecy that generally surrounded tank operations and the fact that his death on German soil — Rose was the war’s highest-ranking U.S. officer to be killed as a prisoner of war — came just weeks before the conflict’s end.

A plaque marks his birthplace in Middletown, Connecticut, and a veterans center there also bears his name. During Operation Desert Storm, a key military staging area was named Camp Rose in his honor.

And so, as Shamon listened to Fogel’s presentation two years ago, he resolved that something should be done in Denver to preserve the memory of a man whose achievements far outran his public recognition.

Marshall Fogel stands next to a portrait of Gen. Maurice Rose that he had restored and rehung in the lobby of HealthOne Rose Medical Center. (Courtesy of Marshall Fogel)

“Nobody wanted to talk about statues”

One solution, as Shamon and Fogel realized along with others — including prominent businessman and philanthropist Larry Mizel, who Shamon calls a “guiding force” behind the effort — was a statue to honor a true American hero. 

Shamon began approaching lawmakers about the possibility. He encountered enthusiasm for the concept, but more immediate priorities abound.

“When we first started going to the state, they were in really bad financial trouble, and we knew that, and we didn’t want this to be held up by costing the taxpayers any money at all,” Shamon says. “So our offer from the very beginning was not only to raise all the money for the statue, but we will also have an endowment that will cover the maintenance in perpetuity.”

But then came the pandemic, last summer’s social justice protests, significant and costly damage to the Capitol and along with it a renewed attention, both nationally and locally, to monuments in public spaces and what they represent.

Protesters toppled the statue at the Capitol honoring Union soldiers in the Civil War who thwarted a Confederate insurgency. But the piece also bore a plaque that inaccurately described the Sand Creek massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members two years later by those same units as a “battle,” inflaming controversy.

“And nobody wanted to talk about statutes,” Shamon says. “They said, ‘Oh, your timing is terrible.’ We had to just push forward, and the story of this great man sold itself when people learned about it. But it was just (difficult) getting on the agenda for the different committees within the legislature.”

Loveland sculptor George Lundeen talks about the process of creating a statue of World War II hero Major General Maurice Rose in his studio on Thursday, July 1, 2021. He acquired replica clothing and equipment and studied photos of Rose to portray the general accurately. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Though the political process moved slowly, Shamon and Fogel wasted no time in translating their idea into something concrete — or at least something in clay that would eventually morph into bronze. Shamon phoned George Lundeen to gauge his interest in working on a larger-than-life sculpture of Rose.

The sculptor had never heard of him. But he agreed to hear Fogel and Shamon’s pitch over lunch in Loveland. 

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“And by the end of the lunch, he wanted to do this as badly as we did,” Shamon says. “And the other thing is that he started work on this long before we had any of the funds come in, so it was on a wing and a prayer — we hadn’t had it approved by the legislature.”

Lundeen crafted a 6-inch clay model that portrayed his basic idea for the statue — Rose actively directing the men and machines under his command. Though small in size, it would help bring the concept to life when the project was presented to lawmakers at the Capitol. 

So when Capitol committees agreed to hear more about the project, Shamon, Fogel and Lundeen were prepared. 

“We wanted to make sure that there’s no controversy about who he was,” Shamon says. “They would hate to have something erected and then find out that there were some negatives toward him. So luckily, Marshall had done so much research that his book speaks for itself.”

With bipartisan political support at the statehouse, a joint resolution to install the statue passed on a voice vote. Subsequently, legislation officially renamed Lincoln Park to Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park, where the Rose sculpture would fit comfortably into a collection that includes Martinez, the Medal of Honor winner, and the Colorado Veterans Memorial.

“It just made sense to go there,” Shamon says. “It’s just a place of honor and it also ties in with the theme of the park.” 

Loveland sculptor George Lundeen goes to great lengths to get the details right in his sculptures. He has World War II era uniforms and boots in his studio for reference as he works on a stature of Major General Maurice Rose on Thursday, July 1, 2021. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Even though much of the fundraising has been done, the project still seeks a final push through tax-deductible donations through the Rose Community Foundation. Money donated beyond the amount needed to cover the construction and upkeep of the statue will go toward the unveiling ceremony and supplemental educational materials.

Gov. Polis’ office noted Rose’s impact on Colorado and the importance of recognizing leaders who embody the state’s ideals.

“General Rose and the Governor do share the same faith,” said spokesman Conor Cahill. “With this statue, the state will honor a Coloradan who was committed to protecting our freedom and the things we love most about our country.”

An artist attends to detail

The workspaces of Lundeen Sculpture meander through three adjacent former Montgomery Ward buildings in downtown Loveland that George Lundeen and his brothers, who launched a family art business in the mid-1970s, converted into their current headquarters in 1981.

In proximity to two prominent foundries that have cast its bronze sculptures, the operation has served as the hub for Lundeen’s wide-ranging works — from Jesus to Thomas Jefferson to Elray Jeppeson’s figure at Denver International Airport; Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Sally Ride, Robert Frost, Dick Butkus and nameless notables like “The Player” who welcomes fans to Coors Field. 

They embrace the historical, but also the deeply personal. His “Hearts on a Swing” piece stands on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, portraying a young woman rocking pensively. The model for that sculpture eventually became his wife, Cammie, whose work in animal sculpture adds to the family’s artistic catalog.

When Shamon and Fogel visited him in Loveland to pitch the Rose statue, Lundeen quickly jumped on board. His father had been part of the D-Day invasion, which added another dimension to his ongoing enthusiasm for projects honoring military veterans. 

He also soon realized he wasn’t alone in being unaware of Rose’s story. 

The more you read about him, the more you think, why hasn’t there been a movie about this guy?

George Lundeen, Loveland sculptor, on Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose

“I talk to people every day because they ask me what I’m working on,” he says. “I say Gen. Rose and they say, ‘Who is he?’ Virtually nobody I’ve talked to knew. I think it’s wonderful that they’re finally recognizing that guy who gave so much to the country.

“He was the right kind of guy at the right place at the right time. The more you read about him, the more you think, why hasn’t there been a movie about this guy?”

And so Lundeen enthusiastically forged ahead. He studied the general, acquired period clothing and accoutrements like tank goggles and binoculars and his sidearm. He asked an assistant roughly Rose’s size to dress in the replica uniform and strike different poses, which he then photographed and hung in his workspace for reference — all with an urgency that outpaced the slow-moving approval process.

“I’ve got to get this thing going,” Lundeen says. “I’m getting old.”

His admiration for Rose’s accomplishments couples with an appreciation for the general’s style — not flashy, but definitely distinctive. His artist’s eye falls on photos of Rose in his ubiquitous jodhpurs and cavalry boots, crisp shirt and tie beneath his tanker jacket and sees, quite literally, really great wrinkles that lend character to the sculpture. 

He ordered a pair of $500, 3-buckle replica cavalry riding boots from a California company that provides period artifacts to Hollywood studios, and wore them daily to break them in so he could accurately represent the creases in the leather. “Because if you don’t get something right,” he says, “there are always experts out there that will tell you what you did wrong. You’ve got to have the right stuff.”

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The attention to detail extends beyond the figure of the general to representation of the ground on which he’ll stand. In this case, Lundeen will connect with a Loveland man who owns vintage military equipment to ensure that the tank tracks pressed into the base, as well as the criss-crossing Jeep tire tracks, are authentic. 

“It’s been fun to work on it,” Lundeen says of the project. “I look forward every day to walking into the studio and pulling out these boots that fit me exactly like his. I wore those through Safeway the other day with a golf shirt and cargo shorts and people looked at me like I was crazy. I probably could’ve gotten away with it in Boulder.”

The pose of Rose pointing his forces forward speaks to both the general’s up-front presence and his role directing his division on its decisive drive into Germany. Lundeen still modifies the larger, 3-foot clay replica that will appear at the official announcement — fine-tuning the general’s gesture, his posture. 

“I think it’s coming together,” he says.

When he sees the replica fresh in the morning, or stands at a distance to see where his gaze naturally falls on the piece, he asks himself: What am I looking at? Then he returns to the photos of Rose, searching for that elusive, evocative expression to preserve for posterity.

“You have to do this guy justice,” he says. “I mean, he’s one of the true heroes as far as I’m concerned. And I’m doing this not only for him but for all those guys, all those guys that were courageous.”

Loveland sculptor George Lundeen shows the small clay heads he’s using to work out the facial expression for what eventually will be a 10-foot bronze statute of Major General Maurice Rose in his studio on Thursday, July 1, 2021. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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