New sculpture in the Wacheno Center asks visitors to consider war and peace

Photo by Erik Paul.

By Gabriel Lucich
Managing Editor

 

Clackamas Community College has a new sculpture in the Wacheno Center. Titled “Swords into Plowshares,” the metal artwork outside the Veterans Office was the result of a team effort.

Started by Bert Romans, a former instructor who passed away last year at age 78, crafted the first iteration in his home studio and, after his passing, former and current students helped to finish the final example from Romans’ oeuvre.

Photo by Erik Paul.

Kai Cocquino, a local woodworker and CCC student, helped bring Swords into Plowshares to life.

“I only met Bert once, but he came off as a really nice guy and I was excited to work with him and learn blacksmithing from him,” said Cocquino. “I’m really happy with the sculpture. When I saw the reaction to it at the memorial service, it felt pretty special, like we brought it back, full-circle. I hope it brings people some peace.”

Cocquino contributed the sculpture’s base, crafted from reclaimed barn wood from a more than 100-year-old barn off Whiskey Hill Road, near Romans’ home and workshop in Mulino where he built a custom shop on his property to accommodate his passion projects.

The sculpture consists of two swords from different historical periods, forged into one plow, with only part of the original structure of the swords remaining as the handles. The plowshare is mounted on a wooden base and is accompanied by a dedication plaque that was produced in the Holden Technology Center by CCC faculty and students.

Photo by Erik Paul

The title of the piece is a biblical reference, taken from the Book of Isaiah. The passage speaks about the people ending warfare and turning their weapons into tools, a sentiment that many former soldiers can probably agree with. Part of the passage, from Isaiah 2:4, is a feature of the plaque on the sculpture.

“He will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (quote source i.e. KJV / NKJV / NIV)

Photo by Pat Almond.

Connor Campbell, another one of Romans’ students, also helped with Swords into Plowshares.

“When I signed up for Bert’s class, I had some hobby blacksmithing experience, but never had someone to guide me in my learning,” Campbell said. “That takes skill and experience. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut, and avoid anything that really challenges yourself and helps you to grow.”

Photo by Pat Almond.

For Campbell, Romans was a true source of learning and encouragement.

“Bert really helped me grow in the craft. He encouraged me to take creative risks. He allowed me to attempt to work on things when they were still in a repairable stage, and he knew when to step in to tell me when something wouldn’t work the way I thought it would.” Campbell said.

Students working on the project to complete Romans’ work were given a rare opportunity to honor their former instructor.

“His depth of experience lent itself to the gentle guidance of his students. He was ever-excited about his craft and that was clear in the way that he spread that excitement to his students. I was so excited to be a part of the completion of his work that now honors him at the school.” Campbell said.

Photo by Pat Almond.

John Phelps, a welding instructor at CCC, worked with Romans during his tenure at the college. According to Phelps, Romans started making things with his hands when he was a teenager but his path got diverted.

“In high school, the shop class that Bert wanted to continue taking was canceled, and he was so disappointed that (with his parent’s permission), he dropped out of school and enlisted in the Marine Corps, and was subsequently sent to fight in Vietnam,” Phelps said.

Years later, back in Clackamas County, Romans married his wife of 35 years and started Renaissance Metal Art. He taught blacksmithing, welding and blueprint reading for CCC’s Career Technical Education program for 15 years.

“Bert loved the college, and always thought that it was his best and favorite job, mainly because he was giving back,” Phelps said. “People loved his patience and kindness. There was nothing that was messed up that he couldn’t fix.”

Romans’ wife, Pat Almond, reflected on his work.

“Bert lived his entire life wanting to make things. There isn’t a room in our house that isn’t filled with things he made. There’s a little of him everywhere. He would always make sure that his blacksmithing students’ work turned out right, and always had something to take home with them, something they could use. He really wanted them to be successful.”

 

Photo by Pat Almond.

At Roman’s memorial service, two US Marines who served with him in Vietnam showed up to honor his service and to give a fitting sendoff to a well-respected man.

Almond said that her husband handled this last bout with cancer and the sometimes equally traumatizing treatment like a real hero. She also shared a quote from William Manchester, a former Marine, journalist and author whom her husband loved.

“Marines do not fight for the flag or for country, for the Marine Corps or glory or any abstraction. They fight for one another.”

Gabriel Lucich

1 Comments

  1. Susan Watkins on June 9, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    I’m proud to say I knew Bert, we met when I started Gardening for Pat. I am honored to call him my friend. He’s a self made man and has a rich artistic history. His presence through his art is obvious all over their house and out buildings. Rest in Peace Bert, you are missed.

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