Da Bronze Crusher may not have the same ring to it as The Bronze Fonz, but it’s happening thanks to the City Attorney of South Milwaukee, Chris Smith, myriad volunteers and thousands of dollars in donations.
On Saturday, June 8 officials will unveil a bronze statue of professional wrestler Reggie "Da Crusher" Lisowski at 1101 Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee.
Lisowski, who lived in South Milwaukee his entire life, was a professional wrestler for more than 40 years and was known as "The Man that Made Milwaukee Famous." He was a three-time AWA Heavyweight Champion, a five-time AWA tag-team champion with Dick the Bruiser and a member of the WCW Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Lisowski, a World War II Army veteran, died of a brain tumor at the age of 79.
On his first day at the job in 2016, Smith went into the office of his colleague, Jesse Wesolowski, and saw he had Crusher's obituary framed on the wall. He knew he was in the right job.
Smith says from the beginning he wanted the city of South Milwaukee to do something to honor Crusher, like maybe a plaque.
"Then one day I thought, 'Forget the plague. Let's do a statue,'" says Smith. "Crusher was not only loved in South Milwaukee, but the entire state and even the Midwest."
Smith believed the fundraising and creation process would take years, maybe even decades, to raise enough money to erect the statue. Smith created a website and Facebook page at the end of December in 2017 and shortly after, a GoFundMe Page. To his surprise, the project was funded by March of 2018.
Vanguard Sculpture Service, a family-owned business that's been around for more than 20 years, won the bid on the job. One of the owners, Beth Sahagian, went to school with one of the Crusher's daughters.
"We got at least 50 percent discount because it's so meaningful to so many," says Smith.
So why is the creation of a Crusher statue so meaningful to Smith? "I was always a big fan of his and I grew up in a very Polish family. My mother's maiden name is Jakubowski," says Smith.
Tom Holleran is the sculptor of the statue. The statue will be on a pedestal and over 6-foot tall when completed. Recently, Holleran invited Smith and Crusher's daughters, Dawn and Sherri, to green light the clay mold of the statue, before the bronze is poured.
"When his daughters saw the mold they said it was perfect and not to change a thing," says Smith.
Smith says he felt relief when he saw the clay mold and how well it turned out. "People were really excited about this and often praising me for getting the project going, but I also knew that if it didn't turn out well my name would be 'mud' in this city," says Smith.
Smith has renderings of the statue, but is going to keep them a surprise for a little while longer to build anticipation.
The City of South Milwaukee is working on transforming a parking lot into a 'pocket park' that will contain the statue. The park – which is a brick plaza square – is the exact size of a wrestling ring, 20 feet by 20 feet. Inscribed bricks to offset the cost are currently for sale on the website.
Smith says he is so thrilled and surprised by the project – the fast pace of the fundraising, the level of talent behind the sculpture – that he told his colleague recently he hopes he doesn't wake up and find out this was all a dream.
"'Da Crusher symbolizes the embodiment of the blue collar, hard working history of the people of South Milwaukee and a monument honoring his memory will be a proud landmark for the people of South Milwaukee forever," says Smith.
Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for coverage of the pouring of The Crusher statue this spring and the unveiling in June.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.