Beloved historian to be honored with statue

Many people know Beth Herrington as an educator and a Tahlequah historian. One group is raising money to dedicate a statue of her, which will be placed on the Thompson House lawn.

Known first as a music educator, Beth Herrington is also recognized for rescuing and revitalizing the Thompson House.

In recent years, her attention - focused on the history of the Victorian-era home - has also included the whole of the town's history, and her bus tours are memorable.

This enthusiasm for Tahlequah got some people to thinking about her dedication and passion, and they decided to honor her with a statue. The group hopes it will be complete by next summer, just in time to celebrate Herrington's 90th birthday.

Mark Gish was at a meeting, and in a conversation with David McClain, which was cut short when Herrington told them to be quiet.

"She is always the teacher, and has that voice that can place you right back in school again," said Gish, who had a favorite teacher just like her. "They have an endearing way of bringing out the best in you."

Most communities aren't fortunate enough to have a Beth Herrington, Gish said.

"We are, and the fact she has a steel-trap mind, and the fact she's willing to share her knowledge with the community about the Thompson House, is kind enough," he said. "If you Google 'Beth Herrington,' you'll be amazed at what they say."

When he noticed the films Jeremy Scott was making with Herrington detailing local history, Gish said he called McClain, and they decided now is the time for the statue. They got a group together of her friends from church and town, saying how nice it would be to honor her.

"I realized none of this could happen without talking to Beth first," Gish said. "When we told her, at first she said no, then she eventually came around and was very pleased, I think, because she started asking questions."

After getting several referrals for sculptors, the group took bids, choosing the lowest, but the group also considered the best artist.

Patti Hale took pictures of Herrington with children, and many more up close of her face and figure, which they provided Denise Ford of Tulsa, who won the bid. Her work can be viewed at maidenbronze.com.

"She was our favorite among all of us, and her bid was the lowest at $40,000. The highest was $80,000," said Gish. "We liked that her pieces have more defining features and realistic looks of the subject."

The life-sized bronze statue will be placed on the Thompson House property, and volunteers are eager to have it, according to Gish.

"The Thompson House is her crown jewel of the history of Tahlequah. She's saved it since day one and made it what it is today," he said.

As of today, the group has raised $22,000, with the goal of $50,000 for construction of the base and landscape.

"We have a lot of pledges out, but I'm not counting those," said Gish.

He is amazed at the reception they're getting from people "who grin and say it's been long overdue."

There is a gofundme.com campaign, and donations can be taken to BancFirst. Checks are tax-deductible.

"We're so lucky to have the Tahlequah Community Fund, which is accepting donations. They have loaned us the $12,000 deposit," Gish said.

People who had Herrington as a teacher and who live all over the county have access to make a donation, said Gish.

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