Cheryl Snapp Conner – Creating a Legacy: Sculptor Gary Lee Price

Cheryl Snapp Conner

  Cheryl Snapp Conner

 

What does it take to create a legacy? Gary Lee Price has strong opinions on this. Gary is the sculptor commissioned to create the Statue of Responsibility which fulfills a personal mission for Holocaust survivor and author Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, and is advanced by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.

The Statue of Responsibility is the initiative of the Responsibility Foundation, which is working to erect a statue on the U.S. west coast that has a similar purpose to the Statue of Liberty in the east, to serve as a symbol of responsibility and a beacon of hope.

Gary believes that a legacy is the culmination of three conditions:

  1. In many cases, a legacy is borne out of extreme and tragic situations.
  2. In every case, a legacy is compelled by the touch of key individuals who inspire and guide the evolution from tragedy and struggle into a message of hope.
  3. The meaning of a legacy is in the positive benefit it provides to others, which far transcends the achievements of the person or people involved.

These first two conditions are the factors that allowed Viktor Frankl to emerge from the worst atrocities imaginable in his three-year experience in the Auschwitz concentration camps in 1944-1947. Frankl was forced to work as a slave laborer and later as a physician at Auschwitz. His mother, his brother, and his wife, who was ultimately separated from him, all died. Of his immediate family, only his sister Stella survived.

Within this horrific experience, Frankl’s studies and education and his inner fortitude helped him process his unthinkable situation into the philosophy that ultimately defined his existence: that people are primarily striving to find meaning in their lives.

Among other influencers in Frankl’s life, it was a mentor and friend, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who encouraged Frankl to publish his experience and thoughts in what has become one of the ten most influential books of all time, Man’s Search for Meaning. Now Gary’s third condition was accomplished as well: Frankl’s work has influenced millions of people across multiple generations.

Frankl’s message vastly transcended the accomplishments of his life, and is continuing to do so now through his published works and through The Statue of Responsibility plan. It was Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People who, after being inspired by Frankl, committed to bringing Frankl’s vision of The Statue of Responsibility, which he spoke of in presentations, to life.

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” – Dr. Viktor E. Frankl

Like Frankl’s book, the new 305-foot Statue of Responsibility, with its image of clasped hands, will influence thousands of people for many generations to come.

Gary Lee Price and Leesa Clark-Price with miniature of Statue of Responsibility

Fittingly, Gary Price’s own life has followed the tragedy/legacy model as well. As a young child, Gary was highly influenced by his mother, who spent countless hours encouraging his expression with paint and colored pencils at the military barracks in Manheim, Germany. Gary’s stepfather was a jealous and mercurial man. Gary recalls the fateful evening when, at age six, he was approached by his mother who was frightened after an argument with his stepfather and confided that she didn’t know what to do. “Do not unlock the door,” Gary had said.

His next memory, as vivid as if it had happened today, was the sound of an argument and loud noises. He rushed from his bed to encounter the sight he will never forget: his mother lying in a pool of blood, where she gazed into his eyes for the final seconds of her life as he cried. He watched in horror as his stepfather, who had killed her, proceeded to shoot himself in the head.

In the ensuing years, Gary’s pain continued. His remaining childhood years were marred by beatings and sexual abuse. Amid the agony, however, he recalls the bright spots of attending school in Montpelier, Idaho, and particularly of his first and third grade teachers, Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Sharp. Knowing his tragic background, Mrs. Anderson frequently remarked upon his drawings and would regularly make a point of holding up his drawings and praising his artwork in front of the class. In third grade, Mrs. Sharp supported his efforts, as well.

Gary Lee Price

“I strongly believe it was the validation from these great teachers that propelled me to become the artist I am today,” Gary says. “It was the influence of these teachers—and of my mother—who set within me the idea that the work we do, and the greatest achievements we make are for the benefit of others. They instilled in me the idea of leaving as much of a positive legacy for others as I possibly can.”

Unfortunately, the path from tragedy to wisdom and caring moves far too often in the opposite way. In 1984, in the aftermath of the mass shooting of 21 people in San Ysidro, California, one of Gary’s coworkers, while listening to the news reports, turned in surprise and said, “Gary, that could have been you.”

How could this have been Gary? The perpetrator, James Oliver Huberty, had endured a tragic childhood marked with crippling illness from polio, and was later abandoned by his mother. Embittered, he grew up to become a domestic abuser, grew increasingly violent and began stockpiling ammunition and guns. After his crime, the wife who had endured his violent behavior blamed his actions on everything from an unhealthy diet to the toxic fumes he’d inhaled in a prior welding career.

But for Gary, the meaning of situations like this one is clear: in cases of extreme tragedy, a person must make the fundamental decision as to whether to look inward and find a way to make good of the situation (as Frankl did), or to become embittered and cold.

The influence of others who inspire is vital in the process of choosing to turn painful experiences to good. And ultimately, the desire to use one’s experience and learning to help others, rather than to enrich oneself, is where the greatest possibility occurs—the chance to enrich and influence thousands or millions of others for good.

As we talked, Gary was reminded of a favorite image: the legendary Phoenix, injured and dying, that only through the experience of its suffering is able to achieve its destiny of arising from the ashes, empowered to spread its influence to others for generations to come. This is the way a legacy is born.


Cheryl Snapp Conner, award-winning journalist and content expert, is founder of SnappConner PR, developer of the Content University program for helping entrepreneurs and executives learn to excel in thought leadership. www.contentuniversity.com. To learn more about Dr. Viktor E. Frankl’s Responsibility Movement, visit the Responsibility Foundation at www.responsibilityfoundation.org. To learn more about the Statue of Responsibility, visit www.statueofresponsibility.com

 
This article is reprinted from the Legacy Special Edition of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

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