As the larger-than-life sculpture of one of Good Shepherd’s most revered leaders emerged from the back of a van, a woman in a wheelchair gasped.
“Goodness!” BONNIE STALLMAN said. “Look at it!”
The 9-foot, 900-pound bronze casting depicts Conrad Raker, the son of Good Shepherd’s founder, lifting with crutches and leg braces.
Stallman, who uses the wheelchair because of a spinal birth defect, let out a nervous laugh, explaining how she was the girl in the 1955 photograph from which the sculpture took form.
“I was very bashful,” she recalled of the snapshot captured in Good Shepherd’s play yard when she was like five or six. Raker, known as Connie, “wanted to lift me up to get me to smile.”
Smile she did, as one of the few who got a glimpse of the $ 100,000 sculpture being installed a week before its official unveiling. Stallman, in fact, will pull the drape from the artwork at Friday’s grand opening ceremony of Good Shepherd’s $ 41.7 million south Allentown campus transformation.
The ceremony will kick off Good Shepherd’s annual two-day Independence Day observance Friday and Saturday with speeches, tours of new buildings and a tribute to Raker.
“It’s just absolutely wonderful,” Good Shepherd President Sally Gammon explained Thursday morning, when the sculpture was placed by crane onto a temporary base in the center of the campus.
“It portrays exactly what we wanted : Dr. Raker lifted people up, always giving them hope.”
Raker lived at Good Shepherd for nearly all of his 90 years, she said. He was born at the rehabilitation complex and left only to attend seminary to guide the organization’s growth and development. While his father, the Reverend John “Papa” Raker, founded the hospital, the younger Raker, who died in 2002, had the vision to turn it into a major health care facility. He ran Good Shepherd from 1941 until 1980.
Today, Good Shepherd annually cares for 35,000 people with physical and mental disabilities through therapy, hospitalization, a skilled nursing home and job training. It provides outpatient services at 17 sites in eastern Pennsylvania.
“AN UPLIFTING TRIBUTE TO A MAN OF HOPE”
This original article by ANN WLAZELEK appeared in THE MORNING CALL on October 9, 2006.