November 12, 2013 | 02:24 PMThe Gary Gygax memorial project has enough money to move forward.
Gail Gygax, Gary Gygax’s widow, told the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners on Monday that she has commissioned Wisconsin sculptor and artist Gerald P. Sawyer to help design and build the memorial.
Gary Gygax, who grew up in Lake Geneva, is internationally known as one of the creators of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, also called D&D.
Dungeons & Dragons spawned a multi-billion dollar industry, hundreds of books, video games and movies.
Gygax died March 4, 2008, at age 69. Design work is still continuing and Gail Gygax and others involved with the project would still have to produce a finished design and drawings for review by the park board and the city’s Plan Commission.
The Gygax Memorial Fund Inc., founded by Gail Gygax, is raising money to build a memorial to Gygax on 100 square feet of land granted for that purpose in Donian Park by the Lake Geneva City Council.
The Donian site is next to the first bench along the Mill Race from Center Street.
Gygax said she’s still raising money to cover possible contingencies and a state requirement that memorials have a fund that will pay for up to 25 years of maintenance.
Sawyer of Lake Mills is perhaps best known for his “Fonz” statue in Milwaukee, a life-sized bronze reproduction of actor Henry Winkler, who portrayed Arthur Fonzarelli in the television show “Happy Days,” (1974 to 1984) which was set in 1950s Milwaukee.
He has also designed public artwork now on display in Fort Atkinson and at the Milwaukee County Museum.
Sawyer also has Lake Geneva ties. He did the repair work on the Andy Gump statue and the Three Graces Fountain in Flat Iron Park.
“This project is going to be another one that will draw a lot of attention,” he told the park board.
Sawyer told the commissioners that his youngest son, Josh Sawyer, was an avid D&D player and big fan of Gygax. His son is now a computer game designer with Obsidian Entertainment, California.
He said that when Gail Gygax approached him about the memorial project he was happy to take it on.
Sawyer said his main concern was size limitations. While the 10-foot-by-10-foot location will set the base size of the memorial, Sawyer asked if there were any height limitations he should know for memorials.
Sawyer said his designs led him to setting a height of seven feet for the memorial. Commissioners said they didn’t see any problems with that.
Sawyer said he wants to cast the bronze portions of the memorial in one piece. He said when memorials are damaged, it usually involves vandals pulling off weapons that are bolted down.
Sawyer said the working design for the memorial includes a pair of crossed halberds (spearlike pole arm with axe-like heads). But they will be cast as a solid piece, integrated into the body of the memorial, which will also feature a bust of Gygax, a dragon and an open book.
Gail Gygax told the board that she believes the fans will want to leave dice in memory of Gary Gygax, who popularized the use of polygonal dice in gaming with anywhere of up to 20 sides.
Instead of having dice lying about the memorial that could create a tripping hazard, the memorial would have an opening where fans could leave their dice.
The memorial could be emptied regularly and the dice sold to benefit charity, she said.
Sawyer said the memorial designers are also considering imbedding a chip in the memorial, which would provide persons with the right cell phone app to access an interactive program at the memorial.
No formal cost estimate of the memorial or official drawings have been released.