MARQUETTE, Mich (WZMQ) – The U.P. is a widely cultured place with a landscape of wonderful people from all different walks of life. Phil Niemisto was widely known as Marquette’s “Self-Appointed Maintenance Man”, washing windows and bringing smiles to everyone.
Phil Niemisto was born in Ishpeming in 1929. After helping Marquette for years, a sculpting artist Earl Senchuk, and the Downtown Development Authority presented Phil with the idea of making a statue of him.
That sculpture is seasonally displayed in what’s now known as Phil Niemisto’s Pocket Park. “I approached Phil several times on the street to ask him if I could measure him and he declined every time”, said artist Earl Senchuk.
Senchuk had created models of Phil in the past, but this was a whole different medium and size for him to work with. Creating statues and sculptures in bigger cities is normally done with copper, but Senchuk noted that the molding epoxy “moulage”, creates a more realistic look.
“I’m making an actual mold of terrycloth, moulage sticks to absolutely nothing so now if I was to make a latex mold of this I can use that latex mold as a stamping pad so when the epoxy is nice and tender and hasn’t firmed up yet I can stamp the impression of the fabric just like I did with Phil’s hat”, said Senchuk.
Senchuk continued that when he was creating the sculpture, using Moulage helped him develop the gazing smile that Phil was known for. Regular silicone takes longer to set, and Senchuk said moulage can set rapidly and doesn’t stick to any fabric. “What’s that tune for cheers, everybody knows your name, that’s what Phil was all about he loved being downtown.”
Senchuk is currently working on the regular winter maintenance as with past vandalism, Phil needs some repairs to his hands. A decision is yet to be made on when Phil will make it back on the street but Earl says he’s hopeful it will be sometime in the spring.