Longtime Bexley resident Barb Jenks Triffon has teamed with the Bexley Recreation and Parks Department to launch a fundraising campaign to restore a sculpture that has been a popular fixture at Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., for more than half a century.

Jenks Triffon said she has long been an admirer of the late Mary "May" Elizabeth Cook's sculpture, "Joyeuse Rencontre" ("Happy Meeting"), which depicts a little boy observing the wonders of a turtle. Jenks Triffon said she became enthralled with Cook's life and work when she researched the artist's life while working as a local news reporter 25 years ago.

"(Cook) was enchanted with nature and she loved children since they're so close to nature," Jenks Triffon said. "What better place for the sculpture than Jeffrey Mansion?"

Cook was born in Chillicothe in 1864 and later moved to Columbus, where her home and studio were located on Clifton Avenue near Bexley, according to the Ross County Historical Society. She enrolled in ceramic engineering at Ohio State University and was instrumental in helping surgeons develop the art and science of facial reconstruction (plastic surgery) for severely disfigured World War I soldiers, according to society information. She was prepared to offer her services again for World War II, but she was injured in a fall from scaffolding in 1943 and spent the rest of her life in a hospital, where she died in 1951.

More than a century has passed since Cook created the "Joyeuse Rencontre" sculpture, which is now discolored and has damage such as a cracked nose and missing fingers. Before the sculpture was installed at Jeffrey Mansion in the mid-20th century, the piece was featured in exhibits at the Spring Salon in Paris, France, in 1913 and at the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art in 1917.

"A lot of people have memories about the little boy sculpture," Jenks Triffon said. "It's actually a valuable piece of art."

Keny Galleries in Columbus recently estimated the value of "Joyeuse Rencontre" at $27,500 when restored, Jenks Triffon said. The Columbus Art Memorial company has submitted a bid to restore the sculpture for $10,200, which is the campaign's fundraising goal, she said.

Bexley Recreation and Parks Department officials have discussed the possibility of restoring the sculpture for the past two decades, and Jenks Triffon took the lead in kicking off the fundraising campaign, said Barb Greiner, a recreation supervisor with the department.

"We are assisting her, because we have set up an account with the city" to collect donations, Greiner said.

"The statue has been here since the 1950s. That's how most people in Bexley are familiar with it," she said.

To donate to the Mary "May" Elizabeth Cook Fundraising Campaign, call Greiner at 614-559-4300 or send a check made out to the Bexley Recreation and Parks Department with "Little Boy Sculpture" noted in the memo line and mail it to the department's offices at Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., Bexley, Ohio 43209.

While no deadline has been set to raise all the money, Jenks Triffon said the hope is to raise it as soon as possible, while the restoration company's bid is still open.