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Lewiston monument a labor of volunteers

Lee Simonson, described as the "architect" of efforts to build an Underground Railroad monument in Lewiston, got a surprise Wednesday night.

The former Niagara County legislator will be honored by the Western New York Association of Historical Agencies with its annual individual achievement award for his work during the last three years developing the sculpture designed by artist Susan Geissler.

"It was his commitment and his conviction and perseverance and stroke of genius in engaging Susan Geissler that made this magnificent work of art a reality," said Pam Hauth, executive director of the Historical Association of Lewiston. "He is extremely deserving of this recognition."

Simonson, Hauth said, took an idea to honor the freedom seekers and volunteers on the Underground Railroad to fruition by writing proposals, securing funding and pushing the idea forward.

His work was done entirely as a volunteer.

"He has been tireless in his endeavor to see this human experience brought to us and cast in bronze," said Diane Finkbeiner, another project volunteer.

An unveiling Wednesday night of the bronze and stone sculpture was a celebration of work done by volunteers like Simonson. They hope those efforts will shine for years to come.

The monument, Simonson said, "will have such an effect on those who see it that its impact will echo throughout future generations."

- Denise Jewell Gee

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