Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 1, 2014

Putnam fundraiser exceeds expectations

Brick party turns into Tomcat reunion

ASHLAND — Artists Denise Spaulding and Melanie Osborne never knew what they were getting into with this Putnam Stadium brick project.

However, they now know never to underestimate Donna Suttle, the organizer of the Brick Party fundraiser who tried to tell them from the beginning it was going to be big.

“I didn’t dream it would turn into what it did,” Osborne said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Spaudling and Osborne inscribed more than 200 bricks even before Saturday’s Brick Party event at the South Ashland Florist on 29th Street.

The party turned into a Tomcat Reunion. Some came in and picked up their brick and left, but most of them stuck around for Tomcat talk at the flower shop.

Nothing could brighten Suttle’s day more and then, to top it off, WSAZ television’s Rob Johnson presented her with the “Hometown Hero” award.

Suttle talked between tears about her love for Putnam Stadium, which has been taken apart in the last three weeks to make the way for a new stadium. The 76-year-old former WPA project had seen better days and Suttle, the only female on the Putnam Stadium Restoration committee, has put her heart and soul in raising money.

She expected to top $7,000 for the Brick Party alone. Spaulding and Osborne donated their time to meticulously inscribe whatever anybody wanted on bricks. They painted the front of the brick white and wrote the inscription in maroon.

There were bricks all over the flower shop on Saturday and those who had placed an order picked up their treasure. There were auction items available too, including a bench from the stadium locker room.

“I thought we might do 50 to 100 bricks,” Osborne said. “It turned out to be over 200.

“I’m delighted. It’s great to see that many people working together.”

The talented artists also had some of their ware on display at the flower shop. They painted bricks all afternoon on Saturday.

The painted and inscribed bricks were purchased for a $20 donation to the stadium fund. The rough and worn bricks were pieces of art by the time the artists got finished with them. People had class graduating years, JFL seasons and a few had clever lines.

“I’m from Catlettsburg and I’ll have you know I’m wearing socks with orange and black in them,” Spaudling said. “But I have some memories of Putnam Stadium too.”

Spaulding joked she would like to have a stadium brick with the score from Catlettsburg’s victory over Ashland in 1957 in Putnam Stadium.

“But I don’t know the score,” she said.

Spaulding graduated from Boyd County High School in 1976 while Osborne graduated from Ashland in 1979.

“Putnam Stadium has a huge tradition and history in our area,” Spaulding said. “I’m all about history. I was honored to help.”

Suttle spoke highly of the artists and Steve Conley, who provided much of the heavy lifting, literally. He carried more than 200 bricks over from the stadium throughout the week, cleared the mortar off them and on Friday was even painting the white base to save the artists time.

“I couldn’t have done this without Steve Conley,” Suttle said. “The job was a lot more overwhelming than they thought. They didn’t know the Tomcat Nation was so involved.”

Suttle said she warned the artists it was going to be a huge project.

“I said ‘Mel, this is going to be big.’ My original goal was to sell 100 so we could raise $2,000. Well, we tripled that and more. The stadium is torn down but we’re kind of building it back up.”

Greg Jackson, the chairman of the restoration committee, said Suttle is the energy behind the project.

“She’s truly the spark to our committee,” he said. “Her passion for this is phenomenal. Her energy flows to everybody else.”

Jackson said if he had 30 others like Suttle and Conley that the project would have all it needed in a couple of weeks.

“Donna is a great ambassador for our program,” Jackson said. “She’s a friend to Ashland. Miss Tomcat. Nothing stops her. We are learning not to underestimate her.”

Osborne said Andy Moore, who operates a restaurant in the Pendleton where Osborne and Spaulding work, saw the bricks coming to them by the dozens. He said he wanted Suttle to do a project that involved him.

“I told him you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” Osborne said. “Donna will have you feeding the whole city of Ashland.”

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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