Public celebration for chainsaw sculpture Saturday near Wright Park

A public ceremony will be held this weekend to formally mark the completion and unveiling of a unique sculpture located near Tacoma’s Wright Park.

For more than 100 years, a towering, big-leaf maple tree stood prominent outside the former Yuncker Manor — a two-story, 126-year-old building located at 519 S. G St., listed on Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places, and purchased nearly a decade ago by attorney Virginia DeCosta and her husband, Marc Ross. Today, the building serves as the headquarters of DeCosta Law Firm.

A few years ago, DeCosta and Ross noticed the tree was dying. According to the couple, they consulted with City officials and local arborists to confirm the tree could not be saved.

“If there was any way to save it — or any part of it — we would have,” DeCosta told me during an interview last year (see “Chainsaw carver creates underwater tableau near Wright Park,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 19, 2014; and “Top Stories 2014: #3 — Chainsaw carver near Wright Park,” Tacoma Daily Index, Dec. 29, 2014). “We care very deeply about roots — no pun intended — and history.”

“We wanted to make sure that the tree itself kind of continued to live, even though it had died,” added Ross.

The couple decided to hire local painter, illustrator, and chainsaw sculptor Bruce ‘Thor’ Thorsteinson (who prefers the name ‘Thor From Earth’) to carve an underwater tableau that depicted a cluster of sea turtles, a school of fish swimming through sea grass, dolphins, crabs, and star fish — a scene that spoke to DeCosta’s Portuguese-Hawaiian roots.

On Thursday, Ross e-mailed the Tacoma Daily Index to let us know a public Hawaiian blessing ceremony will be held this weekend to mark the sculpture’s completion.

“An introduction will start the festivities explaining the tradition behind the blessing, then an elder will perform the blessing,” explained Ross. “Between 100 to 200 people (or more) will be in attendance, with a large portion from the local Hawaiian community. [The sculpture] is now complete and this incredible piece of art will be at its full glory. We believe that something very special has come from this grand old 130-year-old tree.”

The public blessing ceremony (with live acoustic Hawaiian music) will begin at 1 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 19, at the sculpture, which is located outside DeCosta Law Firm, across the street from Wright Park.

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.