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Couple make concrete reminders of the heroes among us

Dave Speedling removes one of the pieces of the mold of a female soldier that was made at SVJ Creative Designs in rural Kellogg. About half its business is now creating hero statues.

KELLOGG — From their workshop atop a bluff near Kellogg, Dave and Shelly Speedling pour time, talent and concrete into helping praise the lives, and sometimes deaths, of heroes among us.

The couple owns SVJ Creative Designs t hat for years has made deer, angels, gnomes and other concrete art for people's lawns. About a decade ago, they got into the hero business. Today, maybe half their business is making statues of military personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers and paramedics

It's "definitely growing," Dave Speedling said as removed the mold from a statue of a female soldier.

"Growing fast," Shelly Speedling said.

While they have made statues for memorials across the nation, you can see their work just down the road at the Heroes Memorial in downtown Kellogg; it was dedicated in late 2014. They have sold hero statues to more than 50 places, including sites in Canada and many states as well as Elgin, Kellogg, Lanesboro, Mazeppa, Rochester, Wabasha and Wykoff. Some were made for public areas, some for private parties.


The most unusual one was an underwater memorial for divers in Gulf Shores, Ala., Shelly Speedling said. They gave the ingredients to people there and they believe the statues will work. "We honestly think concrete underwater is not a good idea," she said.

Each statue costs about $3,500.

They have several hero molds and are working on a battlefield cross (made of the rifle, helmet and boots of a fallen soldier) and also a soldier kneeling in front of a cross. They next want to offer half-sized soldier statues for lawns.

The mold for just one full-sized statue costs up to $15,000, Shelly Speedling said. To speed up the pace, they have started a GoFundMe page to help buy molds, So far, they have raised $600.

"We're just a small mom and pop business wanting to do a good thing for the community," she said.

Neither Dave nor Shelly served in the military, but Dave was a 30-year veteran of the Kellogg Fire Department and their son, Jeffrey Speedling is an Elgin firefighter and paramedic.

KELLOGG — Hero statues are favorites of both Dave and Shelly because of how their customers think about them.

"They take pretty deep pride" in the statues, Shelly Speeding said. "We get to talk to so many neat people."


Heroes are special, Dave Speedling said.

"It's going to the cities and showing respect for the people who gave us our freedom and go out to fight fires for us," he said.

Al Zdon isn't surprised that the hero business has boomed. He's the director of communications for the Minnesota American Legion and said news about new memorials being proposed, built or dedicated is now common.

Part of that may be because only about 5 percent of the 16 million who served in World War II are still alive. Many Civil War memorials on courthouse lawns or parks were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s when the last of that wars veterans were getting old, he said.

A memorial "just seems to be the kind of project a community or a Legion Post or a group of veterans posts can get behind," Zdon said. He knows of about 100 across the state being created in the past decade. He thought they would be slowing down, but they haven't.

He thinks that part of that might be from memorial envy. Someone drives through a town and sees one and wonders, "Why don't we have one? he said.

Having a memorial in each town is not too many. "It's an effort to recognize that kind of sacrifice that was made," he said.


This statue of a female soldier is filled with detail.

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