Statue honoring Marquette icon unveiled



Photo by Neil Flavin: Phil Niemisto sits beside the newly unveiled statue of his own likeness in the downtown Marquette pocket park named in his honor during the public ceremony Tuesday, celebrating his local fame as an iconic window washer.

Trinity Carey

Marquette was graced with a sunny, 70 degree day on Tuesday, Oct. 17—temps to be celebrated in the U.P. this late into the fall season, but the weather wasn’t the only thing locals had to celebrate.

Community members gathered in the Phil Niemisto Pocket Park at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to witness the unveiling of a statue of local icon Phil Niemisto.

One may not know Niemisto by name, but everyone has seen him, window washer and bucket in hand, strolling down Washington Street rain or shine, or maybe enjoying his morning cup of coffee at Donckers.

“I don’t do all this work because I think I’m going to get an award,” Niemisto said. “I do it because I actually enjoy doing what I’m doing. What would you do if you weren’t working?”

He has been washing the windows of over 100 Marquette businesses for years. He spends his free time planting and tending his flowers in the pocket park.

Now, thanks to community donations and artist Earl Senchuk, Niemisto can always be found resting in his favorite Marquette location, which is now the pocket park named after him.

After three full months and many challenges, Senchuk was finally able to pull the sheet from his statue and unveil to the community his statue of Niemisto.

“Well, judging from the reaction of everyone here, it’s an overwhelming success. It’s because, I think, everybody just loves [Niemisto] so much,” Senchuk said. “He’s a tremendous guy to do this for, and I’m quite honored to be a part of it.”

The statue, comprised of a steel framework, foam, metal-mesh, concrete and a special epoxy, depicts Niemisto sitting cross-legged on a bench. The life-like installation even features Niemisto wearing his iconic sweater, blue shirt, striped tie and turtle ring.

To bring the statue to life, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority asked the community for donations with a $10,000 goal in mind. Community support soared and just under $14,000 in donations were collected. The remaining funds will go toward maintaining local art and purchasing flowers for Niemisto to plant in his pocket park.

“It’s a nice thing, to do that all for me. They don’t do that for everybody. It’s not something I’m standing there looking and waiting for. It just happened. It’s a very nice gesture,” Niemisto said. “It looks beautiful. I’m going to take that guy to the movies with me.”

Community members gathered to congratulate Niemisto and take photos of Phil with Phil.

“You can’t leave now [Niemisto],” Senchuk joked.