Debra Usinger, vice president of Usinger's Famous Sausage, passed away in July 2012 at the age of 58. She was a friend and as I wrote when I heard the news two summer's ago one of the Milwaukee "area's biggest champions and most visible female entrepreneurs." She had a story for everything and everyone and true heart of gold.
On Wednesday evening, friends, family and civic leaders gathered to commemorate a new memorial for Usinger. Supporters raised more than $20,000 to commission a new sculpture on Milwaukee's Riverwalk and establish a maintenance fund that will help upkeep the newly renovated Edison Park that's just across the Milwaukee River from Usinger's and next to Rojahn & Malaney Co., 1005 N. Edison St.
Local artist Beth Sahagian-Allsopp created the bronze sculpture that has tree branches intertwining on a trellis to signify life and connectivity. She also made the accompanying bench. Sahagian-Allsopphas has several pieces on the RiverWalk and is an owner of Vanguard Sculpture Services.
Debra loved art and her wedding gift to me and my wife was a wonderful painting of small home with a tree in front. It's simple, fun and to this day hangs in our kitchen. I couldn't help but smile when this new tree branch sculpture was dedicated.
The memorial also is intentionally simple. It was planned by Marsha Sehler and implemented by Keith Stachowiak of Uihlein/ Wilson Architects.
Three dear friends of Debra's, Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown; Cecilia Gilbert, business liaison with the Milwaukee Department of Public Works; and Dan McCarthy, director of urban development at Zilber Property Group, led the fundraising efforts. Marsha Sehler, Gary Grunau and others also helped spearhead the memorial. Mayor Barrett and Deb's brother, Fritz, both spoke at Wednesday's dedication. Nearly 100 people attended the dedication and post reception at Mader's.
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