PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Pioneer Pete’s wooden eyes are shining a little brighter.
The 14-foot wooden statue, which faces the front entrance to the Arizona Pioneers Home in Prescott, has a fresh coat of paint over his grand blue shirt, new black on his big shoes, and a little extra protection from Arizona’s constantly changing weather.
Pioneer Home Foundation board member Beth Mosier helped give Pete his recent makeover.
Mosier said the project began while she was walking through the Pioneers Home with one of the residents who expressed an interest in keeping the retirement home in pristine condition.
“She told me that there were several things that needed to done. Painting the Pioneer Pete statue was one of the things that needed to be done. It was becoming very much in disrepair,” Mosier said.
At that point she contacted local sign painter and Pioneers Home volunteer Mike Whalen to discuss the project and how best to paint the statue so it would last the longest.
“His feet were falling apart. His hat had to be painted totally with glue, because the hat was falling apart. He was painted with automobile paint, so he should last for a very long time. We wanted him to look good for the residents here. As a member of the board, what we try to do is help any way we can with resident activities. We’ve put in TVs, cushions, and now worked on Pioneer Pete,” Mosier said.
Whalen volunteered his time on the upgrade project.
“I volunteer here and there to give a little back to the community,” Whalen said.
When it comes to the history of the large wooden statue, Whalen said “there is no history.
“Nobody knows who did it or when they did it. They think he was done in 1930 or 1931. He’s cut from a stump of Ponderosa pine. Someone cut him with a chainsaw and that guy wanted to remain anonymous. To this day he is,” Whalen said.
“He was named Pioneer Pete just because,” Mosier said. “He didn’t have a name. He doesn’t have an artist in back of him.”
The Arizona Pioneers Home is a state-funded retirement home that offers continuous care to its residents. The home first opened its doors in 1911 and can care for up to 150 people at any given time. Prescott icons Sharlot Hall, Big Nose Kate, Harvey House girls and other notable individuals have lived as residents there, Mosier said.
The foundation board consists of all volunteer members, Mosier pointed out.
“We’re always looking for new members to do activities. Twice a year we have a rummage sale and all the money from anything we do goes directly to the residents. Once a year we have a holiday bazaar where there are Christmas items to buy. That will be sometime in late November or early December,” Mosier said.