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The Story Behind South Broadway's Totem Pole

Chance brings two painters, a carpenter and a long-time Nyacker together

It's not hyperbole to say most Nyackers walk, drive or pedal past it each day.

But South Nyack's iconic and colorful totem pole, located at the corner of South Broadway and Clinton Avenue, is likely a mystery to many—something to admire, but without knowledge of the full story.

The pillar turns two this summer, but its skeleton, the tree it's painted on, has been around much longer. All it took was the serendipitous collaboration of two artists, a local carpenter and a long-time Nyacker to transform it.

Originally a towering hardwood in the front yard of 192 South Broadway, the tree was blown over in potent storm. Homeowner Anthony DelRegno—whose family has owned the home for about 60 years—labored to stand the tree back up, digging out the base by hand and trying to pull it upright with his van.

"I almost lost my bumper [in the process]," DelRegno said.

He eventually had a friend with a tow truck straighten the tree back to its proper position. That's when Jamie Wild became involved.

A Nanuet lumber professional, friends with DelRegno, had recently encountered Wild, a now 23-year-old painter from Chestnut Ridge. He put her and DelRegno in touch. Wild, who usually paints murals, was looking to take up a first-time carving gig and quickly got to work.

"I carved it all by hand," she said. "It was my first time doing that sort of thing." Wild used hand tools and worked vertically.

It proved an arduous task, taking from July through October to complete. And even then, pieces were missing.

"The totem pole was faceless for about a year," DelRegno said, noting Wild—with faces not being her artistic forte—had left the visages blank.

But a chance encounter at a nearby Nyack get-together solved the faceless Native America chief dilemma. At a neighbor's fete, DelRegno bumped into Mihn Uong, an artist for The New York Times who was happy to pitch in and lend the final brush strokes.

Uong used a 1958 portrait of DelRegno's father as a template; the colorful obelisk is now home to what is likely the region's only Italian-Native America chieftain.

A photograph of DelRegno's mother at age 19 was inspiration of the female Native American's likeness, too.

"It's sort of a family totem pole," DelRegno said.

The final portion of the monument—the sun that sits atop—was the handiwork of Rockland carpenter Patrick Scanlon, who also created 's iconic sun. Wild theb painted the item.

This summer, DelRegno has planted a small corn crop at the totem pole's base. DelRegno, who owns DelRegno Flooring and Window Treatments, has been watching the husks slowly grow.

"It's an homage to the totem pole," he said.

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Correction: an earlier version of this story said the tree was removed from DelRegno's property, and later returned. The error was been remedied.

Vera Rulon July 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Nice article. Thanks.
William Demarest July 21, 2012 at 01:56 PM
It was sad when that terrific old tree was damaged by a big storm. But the transformed remnants of the tree have brightened up a very busy corner. Really cool.
Noreen July 22, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Thanking everyone for adding flavor to the place I call home. " There is no place like home!" Hugs to all. Noreen
Michele Bonsangue July 26, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Hey cousin(s). Just knew you'd have your moment of fame and glory. Looks really cool. Love you guys Michele & John
Walter Pope February 02, 2013 at 09:54 PM
I wish a car would come along and take it out. It's not enough that the whole town is in foreclosure or that at any given time a handful of storefronts remain empty now we have to stare at this. Plastic flowers added this week. Tackiest thing I've seen in a dying town.

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