You never know what — or who — you’ll find hanging around in antique stores.
Like a United States Senator from Somerset, for instance.
That’s what local attorney Richard Hay found by random chance in a Lincoln County business recently, and soon the bust of Sen. John Sherman Cooper will be moving on up in the world, all the way to the halls of the Pulaski County Court of Justice.
Hay said that he was antiquing as he frequently does in Stanford last month when he stumbled upon Cooper’s likeness in the window of the shop he came upon.
“I just saw it there,” he said.
It was the spitting image of Cooper’s bust from the Kentucky State Capitol building in Frankfort, installed there in 1987, and created around the same time as the statue of Cooper which recently returned to its rightful place on the redesigned Fountain Square in Somerset.
Hay serves on the Pulaski County Bar Association’s Arts Committee, which just last year commissioned a bust of Count Casimir Pulaski, the Revolutionary War hero for whom the county is named, to be placed in the Pulaski Court of Justice facility.
In the Cooper bust, he saw an opportunity for another local icon’s image to grace the new judicial center’s corridors.
“I just thought, ‘What a great addition to the courthouse!’” said Hay.
As such, Hay plans to fix up the bust and donate it to be placed in the judicial center, hopefully within the next six weeks.
Currently, however, the sculpture rests as Hay found it in his law office on West Columbia Street.
Of course, this version of the bust isn’t actually bronze, even though it may look that way — it’s plaster. The final plaster cast used to shape the actual Frankfort bust in fact, according to Hay.
“The artist (who created the bust), John Tuska, had kept it,” said Hay, noting that Tuska passed away in 1998. “His son recently sold it to Clifton Anderson Antiques.”
Hay showed the Commonwealth Journal the description of the prototype bust, which listed a marked-down price of $1,500 for the bust. It said that Seth Tuska, John’s son, sold it at auction in 2012.
“John Sherman Cooper’s ... legacy of public service and bipartisanship is too lengthy and well-known for this signage but few would argue that his terms as a senator from Kentucky and other important posts places him as our most respected representative in Washington within the 20th century,” reads the note, “and certainly that designation carries to the present.
“(John) Tuska traveled to Washington D.C. where Cooper posed for the artist at age 80, although Tuska softened the aging process to depict Cooper during his tenure as a 60-year-old senator from Kentucky,” it continued.
The finished bust by Tuska was placed in the capitol rotunda, with a dedication recorded in the Commonwealth Journal on October 13, 1987. In it, Sen. Ted Kennedy, a noted Democrat in Congress, was quoted as sharing high praise for his Republican colleague Cooper.
“If you want the unvarnished truth on any issue, free from partisan bias or special interest influence, all you have to do is remember four little words: Ask John Sherman Cooper,” Sen. Kennedy recalled his brother, the late President John F. Kennedy, as telling him.
Cooper passed away in 1991.
Hay said the bust will need a new base, likely copied off of the one in the capitol building — “I don’t think this base is very deserving,” he said of the simple stark white pillar on which the sculpture currently sits — and a protective glass encasement, since it’s far more breakable than the final bronze version, being made only of plaster.
Hay said that he was “excited” to make the find, and to be able to give it a fitting new home.
“What more famous person is there from Pulaski County?” he said. “To bring it home and put it in the judicial center, I’m very excited about it.”