Late Sen. Ted Stevens honored with statue at namesake airport

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Hundreds joined the family of the late Sen. Ted Stevens for the unveiling of the statue commemorating the Alaskan of the Century at the Ted Stevens International Airport Saturday.

The Stevens family sits with the unveiled statue of Sen. Ted Stevens at the Ted Stevens International Airport Saturday.

Made possible by numerous community organizations, the bronze statue of Fmr. Sen. Stevens sitting on a bench with arm extended in a welcoming gesture will now greet bustling airport travelers with a smile.

The Ted Stevens Foundation, formed to honor the senator’s legacy, spearheaded the project. Executive Director Karina Waller started the unveiling ceremony with a reminder of the senator’s contributions.

“This project represents the history of Alaska, and the Senator Stevens’ legacy,” Waller said. “But, it was also designed to inspire all of us to address the challenges and find opportunities by joining together for a common purpose.”

In 2000, the Alaska State Legislature renamed the airport in Anchorage after Sen. Stevens, and along with the name now comes a physical embodiment of the man himself.

Some special speakers joined in the memorial ceremony – the first, the Governor of the State of Alaska.

“Senator Stevens guided the Last Frontier through its first 50 years of statehood,” Gov. Dunleavy began. “He had a prominent role in shaping some of our most significant public policies.”

When the governor finished, he handed the microphone over to a long-time colleague of the late senator’s, Congressman Don Young.

“This was a man who was small in stature, but great in heart,” Congressman Young began, his voice shaking with emotion. “A man who was small in stature, that had great belief in his state; a man that was small in stature, and had a lovely family and had belief in the future of the state.”

Before Congressman Young handed the microphone off, he had one last comment regarding his concern over the metal chosen for the statue cast.

“Bronze means third place. He was never third place,” Young said. “He was always first place. And I would suggest, with respect to the Pennies, that it oughta’ be made of gold.”

Alaska's current U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan also paid their respects at the ceremony.

“This is about us coming together as Alaskans as we visit with one another, as we share with one another, as Ted did with us for so many years, to celebrate his greatness but in a way that is so human and humble,” Sen. Murkowski said.

Sen. Sullivan said Stevens’ legacy of respect and patriotism still lives on in Washington, D.C.

“That legacy, the Ted Stevens legacy, lives on almost daily in the U.S. Senate. It really does,” he said to immediate applause.

Listed on the ceremony brochure was a quote from Sen. Stevens highlighting a strong love and vision for his state:

"We live in a profound moment in Alaska's history. This is a chance for real, lasting change. It is our opportunity to make the kinds of contributions which could forever alter the course of our state. This is not a moment to look back at the past. We need to look ahead and dedicate ourselves to the hard work that will build our future."