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June 21, 2012
Mrs. Kelly Restored
KOSCIUSKO — Laura Mitchell Kelly’s hand has been restored – to the statue marking her grave in the Kosciusko City Cemetery on South Huntington Street. The imposing statue marking the grave of Mrs. Kelly is often visited because of its historical significance and the story associated with it. For a time, the statue was marred by the missing hand and a portion of the anchor to which it was attached. The sculpture was placed at the grave by her grieving widower and the story goes that he was able to view it from the upper story of his home on East Jefferson Street. Mr. Kelly sent photographs of his bride in her 1890s wedding dress to a sculptor in Italy where it was made.
Thanks to a number of Kosciusko residents and others interested in the preservation of the cemetery landmark and the story surrounding it, Laura Kelly has regained her right hand. Sheila Shumaker Pumphrey, a retired Kosciusko educator, spearheaded the project of getting the hand restored. Early last year she noticed the loss of the hand and discovered it lying at the foot of the marker but did not take it. Some time later she realized that it should be put in safekeeping and when she returned to the grave, it was gone. After a reward was offered for the hand’s return, it reappeared in the cemetery. Not wanting to leave the hand to possibly again become missing, she kept it in her possession. “We wanted Miss Laura to have her hand back. When I was growing up, I didn’t especially admire her, but if you look right in her face, she’s quite gorgeous. I drive regularly through the cemetery,” Pumphrey said.
Pumphrey contacted the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for information on someone that could handle the job. Michael Davidson with Stone Guild in Eupora was recommended. He reattached the hand and replicated the handle to which the hand was grasping. Charge for the hand’s reattachment, replication of the anchor handle, and cleaning of the statue was $2,000. All of the funds came from donations, Pumphrey said.
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