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 Jerry Lee Gauss

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Jerry Lee Gauss

Birth
California, USA
Death 3 Apr 1963 (aged 19)
San Diego County, California, USA
Burial Bonita, San Diego County, California, USA
Plot Lot 2, Section 39, Block 57
Memorial ID 42392953 View Source

Dinosaurs rule over South Bay

Artist's new creation keeps local tradition alive

By Michelle Ganon
UNION-TRIBUNE

May 10, 2008

BONITA – Scientists say dinosaurs are extinct, but Bonita (sic: San Diego County) residents know better.
Their Mesozoic Era reptile population will increase to three on May 26, when Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary officially celebrates the installation of Dinosaurous in an area of the park known as The Land of Nod.
The 9-foot-tall, 22-foot-long creature made by local artist Kelly Tracy from donated steel tubing, stucco mesh, rebar, polyurethane foam and rubber will reside just a half-mile from Bonita's other resident dinosaurs, Rumbi and Rangui.
The story of the three sculptures intertwines, although the two artists who shaped them never met.
Nearly 50 years ago, Jerry Gauss, a 15-year-old student at Hilltop High School, created Rumbi and Rangui as a surprise anniversary gift for his parents. He called them glarfs, for dwarf dinosaurs. Rumbi and Rangui's visibility in the family's yard at the corner of Sweetwater and Valley roads led some residents to call the spot Dinosaur Hill.
Although he planned to create more, Gauss died from injuries sustained in a car accident at age 19.
"It was a real tragedy," Tracy said. "Jerry had a wonderful style and great ideas. He could have done so much more."
Time passed. The glarfs disappeared from Bonita in 1969 when the Gauss family relocated to Chula Vista. They were rediscovered 28 years later when Chula Vista police Lt. Tom Everett, a Bonita native, spotted them at the Gauss' new home during an early-morning patrol.
Everett arranged to move the glarfs back to a prominent Bonita location, this time at the entrance of the Bonita Village Shopping Center. Only Rumbi survived the trip, but the story inspired Max Branscomb, a professor of journalism at Southwestern College, to write "When Dinosaurs Roamed the Valley," a musical that has been performed several times at the annual Bonitafest community celebration.
Then, in 2004, Rumbi's head fell off. Tracy saw a television news story about the damaged dinosaur and knew he had to help.
"The glarfs are part of Bonita's history. Everyone loves them," he said. "I volunteered to fix Rumbi, the yellow glarf, and then was asked to reproduce Rangui, the blue one. The new Rangui is not identical to the old, but it is a fairly close match."
Tracy's work on the glarfs led to the Dinosaurous commission. Vanessa Chicca, Glen Abbey's community service counselor, who has written a children's book about the glarfs, saw Tracy working on Rangui and realized that a dinosaur sculpture might enhance the area of the memorial park for infants and children.
Daniel Galligan, general manager, said, "We wanted an appropriate feature element to honor the spirit of children. The bereavement process is a journey, and we're supporting that, in this case, through the artist's vision."
Tracy began work on his sculpture eight months ago. Although he planned to make Dinosaurous 5½ feet tall by 9 feet long, nature intervened. A storm caused a large pepper tree in Tracy's front yard to fall and destroy part of a chain-link fence so he recycled the damaged top rail. It now gives Dinosaurous its shape, from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail.
"I like to use reclaimed and recycled materials when I can," Tracy said.
Nancy Gauss Williams, the original artist's younger sister, who lives in Northern California, was happy to hear about Tracy's project for Glen Abbey.
"My brother had started a third glarf, a flying bird, that he never finished," she said. "It's nice that Kelly fixed Rumbi and Rangui, and that he has made another dinosaur."
Tracy feels that Gauss has helped him find new purpose with his art. "Working with the glarfs and seeing how much the community appreciated my efforts restoring and re-creating Jerry's work has changed me," he said.
As Branscomb said, "Kelly and Jerry would have been good friends. With Dinosaurous, Kelly is honoring Jerry in a wonderful way."


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