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Washington Park Arboretum's 'Tsutakawa Memorial Gates' find new life in new location

After thieves stole and destroyed the 46 year old gates in 2020, the community rallied to fund a remake using the original artist and his father's design. #k5evening

SEATTLE — It was a project sculptor Gerard "Gerry" Tsutakawa hesitated to take on. 

"At first I thought I would not do this," Tsutakawa explained. "Its too complicated too much work. Let somebody else build it; but nobody else could build this thing." 

He was referring to something his father, George Tsutakawa designed 46 years ago — the beloved Memorial Gates at the Washington Park Arboretum. 

The University of Washington professor and internationally renowned sculptor, known for his unique fountains, designed the iconic bronze gates as a tribute to those who love and support the Arboretum.  

Gerry was just 28 years old at the time and fabricated the gates for his father. 

"It was my father's project," Tsutakawa said. "I was just the helper." 

For 46 years those gates welcomed people to the Washington Park Arboretum —  a memorial to those who loved and supported this 230 acre sanctuary in the city.

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But in 2020, days into the pandemic, thieves stole and cut one up for scrap.

They were both beyond repair.

"The initial thought was shock. Someone stole the gates! Why? There was anger and emotion," Tsutakawa shared. "This arboretum, people consider a sanctuary. It's a place they like to connect. So people felt violated."

Supporters of the Arboretum rallied to restore the gates and Gerry stepped up to create them. 

Fortunately, he found his father's original design plans; and 2 1/2 years later, the community gathered at the Arboretum to celebrate the new installation.  

RELATED: Stolen Arboretum gate made by Seattle sculptor now reinstalled at park

The gates, initially created as a memorial for people who love and support the Arboretum, was now also a symbol of resilience.

And to Gerry, it meant revisiting an artistic legacy of his father, one he was proud to be part of then and now. 

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