Ron Cox marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion in 1919 by spending close to a year sculpting the busts of three co-founders — Theodore Roosevelt Jr., William J. Donovan and Eric Fisher Woods — along with American Expeditionary Force Gen. John J. Pershing.
A display in the lobby at Post 66 in Sahuarita features the sculptures.
Cox was a dental technician and owned a dental lab near Seattle. When he moved to Green Valley, friend Gary Ballew introduced him to GVR’s Clay Studio, where learning to sculpt larger pieces came natural.
“I took to clay quite easily and fell in love with sculpting,” he said. “I learned how to look at depth and features.”
Gary Hoffman, commander of American Legion Post 66, said Cox worked solely from four photos for the sculptures.
“After I saw them I realized how important they are, not only to this post but to the entire American Legion. Nobody else, to my knowledge, in this state or in the nation has anything like this on display,” Hoffman said. “They’re awesome. For the post, it’s a high point of showing people the history.”
Hoffman said the post marked the 100th birthday of the American Legion last spring with a party and the busts will be on permanent display. They are in the foyer, which allows public access, and they welcome people coming by to see them, he said.
Getting it started
Cox, an Army veteran, would start a bust with about 25 pounds of clay.
“Then I start adding features. The nose is the starting point. Everything goes back from there. The eyes are the most difficult to do,” he said.
Each bust took about three months; there was a lot of down time during drying, he said.
How does he know when a work is finished?
“When it’s pleasing to me. I’ll think I’m done yet I’ll pick at it for about a week and a half. More than anything, it’s paying attention to detail,” he said.
Then comes painting. When Cox is done applying spray paint with gold, brown, copper and/or bronze shades, each sculpture appears to be made of bronze.
Paying close attention to detail is especially evident in his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, a familiar figure to most people.
His favorite sculpture is one of his granddaughter Amanda Wright when she was 25. As he worked on it he noticed how much she looked like Cox’s wife, June, at that age.
He named the sculpture “Heartstring.”