Giraffe sculptures no longer stand tall on Elaine Place

"It was very emotional for us," Zale said.

Rumors soon rocketed around the Internet. The giraffes would be sold for scrap. Or for $2 million.

The truth, said Zale, is that they're at an artist's warehouse in West Chicago being restored. After that, he'll have them appraised. He's willing to sell them to someone willing to guarantee their return to Elaine Place. Otherwise, he'll put them in a museum.

His offer to leave them on their old Elaine Place site, at no charge to the new owners, no longer stands.

"I'm done at this point with these guys," he said.

The fate of the giraffes has stirred sadness a few miles north of Elaine Place, too, at Jack Kearney's house, where on Tuesday afternoon he sat in a chair in the sunlight.

He's 88 and frail, no longer the hefty guy who could fling a car bumper across an art studio as casually as someone else might toss a rolled newspaper. He stopped sculpting a couple of years ago, before he made the Wicked Witch sculpture that he'd hoped would join some of his best-known sculptures, the Wizard of Oz characters in Oz Park.

The other day, his wife of 61 years, Lynn, told him about the giraffes, and though she's not sure how much he understood, she was sad.

"If I'd known they were moving them," she said. "I would have called someone to get a photographer over there. I would have gone over to take a photograph myself."

She sometimes drives her husband around to look at his works, scattered across Chicago, but she hadn't taken him past the giraffes in a while. She wishes she had.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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