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Company chosen to repair Turning Angel statue

NATCHEZ — The Natchez City Cemetery Board of Directors will soon be hiring a New Orleans restoration company to make repairs to the famous Turning Angel monument, Board President Elise Rushing said.

The Turning Angel statue was toppled from its pedestal in late June and one of the angel’s wings was broken.

Within days after the Turning Angel was found lying damaged on the ground, Natchez Police arrested Austin Petty, 20, of Crosby in connection to the damages.

Investigators believe Petty climbed onto the statue and began to rock it when it fell over.

On Thursday, Rushing said the board selected Emily Ford of Oak and Laurel Cemetery Preservation in New Orleans to make the repairs.

“(Ford) has an impressive portfolio online and we chose her over four other proposals,” Rushing said. “The reason this selection took this long is we wanted to go back and research all of the companies who made proposals. We wanted to make sure the company that was chosen has all of the experience and qualifications that make it the best choice.”

Rushing said Dave Pace of Brookhaven Monument Company also volunteered to help Ford in placing the monument back on its pedestal.

Rushing said $17,734 was raised from both online and mailed donations to the monument’s repair, and depending on the process Ford uses to repair the statue the cost could range from a little over $2,000 to $3,000.

Rushing said the most expensive proposal submitted for the repairs was between $12,000 and $15,000 by other bidders but Ford had the best preservation credentials and experience of all the companies even at a lower cost.

“We didn’t choose her because of the cost but because her background and credentials were so much better than any of the other bidders,” Rushing said.

Any money that is not spent on the Angel, Rushing said, could be used for a security system at the cemetery to prevent future incidents from occurring.

“It is more than enough money to take care of the Angel and a security system within the cemetery, which we will do next,” Rushing said of the money donated to repair the Turning Angel statue. “We are very grateful to the people who’ve made these contributions — to the people of Natchez and several outside of Natchez. We had a number of large contributions that were made. I didn’t expect to receive nearly what we did and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

The Turning Angel was erected by the owner of Natchez Drug Company to commemorate the lives of five girls who died in a building explosion in 1908 and has over the years become a landmark of Natchez.

The Turning Angel’s namesake comes from the way the statue appears to turn has cars pass by the cemetery at night.

Rushing said she wasn’t sure how soon the monument would be fully repaired and put back in place.

“The sooner the better. We want things done carefully and correctly,” she said.