Artist sculpts Diesel memorial

Diesel served as NIU’s live mascot from 2005 to 2013. Diesel, the predecessor to Mission and Mission II, was named NIU’s mascot emeritus by NIU athletics director Sean Frazier, allowing Diesel to attend NIU events throughout retirement. The siberian husky passed away on Sept. 7, 2015, at 12 years old.

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — The Diesel Memorial Project will present NIU with a statue Sept. 1 before the football team’s first home game of the season against Boston College.

The bronze statue, which was designed by Renee Bemis, an award-winning sculptor and Diesel Memorial Project committee member, is a freeze-frame of a high five given by previous live-mascot Diesel after the Huskies scored a touchdown against Ball State during a Nov. 13, 2013, football game. The moment appeared on national television and was highlighted on ESPN Sportscenter.

Bob Smith, a member of the Diesel Memorial Project, said the design for the sculpture was easy to select since that particular moment received so much attention.

At the time of publication, the committee has received $11,713 of the $25,000 needed to cover expected expenses for the monument, according to the Diesel Memorial Project GoFundMe page.

Donations have been used to cover costs at different of phases of the monument construction, but additional funding is needed to pay final expenses.

The campaign became a tax exempt, not-for-profit organization in August.

The GoFundMe campaign page was created May 6, 2016, by Diesel Memorial Project committee member Richard Radek and has received more than 170 donations.

“The sculpture is of Diesel, but the monument is supposed to honor Diesel and future Huskies mascots, also,” Smith said.

Smith said names of present and future mascots will be added to the monument.

Diesel, a wooly-coated Husky, served as the university’s mascot from 2005 to 2013. He continued to appear at games until his death Sept. 6, 2015.

Tom Bonnevier, Diesel’s owner, said the mascot was a rescue who began appearing along the sidelines at football games when he was just two years old but also appeared at some soccer, softball and volleyball games.

Smith said Diesel received national recognition during his first game in 2005 in Toledo, Ohio, when Stacey Dales, former ESPN sideline sportscaster, featured Diesel in multiple segments during the game.

Bonnevier said Diesel’s personality is what drew people in on and off the field during roadgames.

“If I had a nickel for every picture people took of him, I’d be retired already,” Bonnevier said.

While the monument, which will sit outside of Huskie Stadium, is of Diesel and to memorialize NIU’s living mascots, Bonnevier said it’s also to acknowledge athletic programs and create a tradition.

“We love the student athletes,” Bonnevier said. “They put their effort out on the field, on the court, every place day in and day out.”