The man who brought Tacoma to life in bronze has died

Sculptor Larry Anderson reflects in his Bonney Lake studio on August 26, 2014 with a sculpture that was made for Aberdeen High School.
Sculptor Larry Anderson reflects in his Bonney Lake studio on August 26, 2014 with a sculpture that was made for Aberdeen High School. Staff photographer

Larry Anderson, a South Sound sculptor who left an indelible mark on the region’s art and history, has died. He was 78.

Anderson died Thursday after a long illness, said his brother-in-law, Jim Hoard.

Tacomans who don’t know him personally likely know his work.

“He had a great love for the city and that’s why they’re all over town,” Hoard said.

At least 10 of Anderson’s works are in public places in Tacoma. They include:

“New Beginnings” — a newly arriving gent in the bowler hat — in front of Union Station.

“The Leaf” — a young girl and an elderly friend — in Wright Park.

“A Fish Story” — a fisherman proudly showing off his catch to an admirer — in front of the Slovonian American Benevolent Society in Old Town.

“We Honor a Hero” — a young Marvin Klegman saving an even younger Kelcy Allen during an earthquake — in front of Lowell Elementary School.

“All those lasting works are a major legacy for the city,” Hoard said. “They’re not going any where.”

Anderson worked mainly in bronze and paintings. He relished the limitless expression of art.

“It’s the freedom of being wide open and being able to move in every direction you want,” Anderson said in 2017.

“The Leaf,” the 1975 Wright Park work showing the girl presenting a leaf to the elderly man, was one of his first major works.

“That helped launch his career in a major way,” Hoard said.

In addition to his Tacoma work, his “The Ascent” marks the entrance to Bonney Lake on state Route 410. In 2017, he was given the city’s Medal of Arts Award.

Anderson had other sculptures around the country. Notable among those is “Continuum” at the Purdue University college of veterinary medicine in Indiana and “Springfield’s Lincoln” in Springfield, Illinois, which features a statue of Abraham Lincoln and his family.

Anderson was born and raised in Tacoma. He first met his wife of 56 years, Sherilyn, at Lincoln High School. He donated a bust of the president to the school.

The couple lived in Tacoma from the 1960s to 1987, when they resettled in Bonney Lake.

Anderson created the majority of his work in his Bonney Lake home. It has two studios: one for painting and one for sculpting. His paintings hang all over the home.

“In his sculpture studio we’ve had horses, pigs — a lot of livestock,” Sharilyn said in a 2017 interview.

Anderson’s work often had a historical angle. The sculpture of Marvin Klegman served to commemorate the 1949 earthquake that killed the boy at Lowell Elementary.

It had been about 10 years since Anderson’s last work — a painting he called “Self-portrait of man with Parkinson’s.” He was diagnosed with the disease in 2007.

A memorial service for Anderson will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in Kilworth Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Along with his wife, Anderson is survived by his son, Caplan Anderson; daughters, Kristen Murphy and Marti Jane Anderson, and three grandchildren.

Anderson and his wife lived across the globe, including Oregon, Michigan, Maine, Austria and France. Anderson drew inspiration for some of his paintings from the places they had lived.

But, Hoard said, “He never gave up his attachment to Tacoma.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

Staff writer Allison Needles contributed to this story.