Santa Cruz artist Sean Monaghan shows a model of the massive sculpture he created for the new columbarium at the Pajaro Valley Public Cemetery on Sept. 18 on East Lake Avenue. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE — A sculpture depicting two intertwining great blue herons now sits atop a new columbarium at Pajaro Valley Public Cemetery.

The 12-foot tall sculpture, entitled “Eternal,” was created by local artist and teacher Sean M. Monaghan and three assistants. Monaghan said he was approached last year about creating a piece for the new structure.

“They originally asked for something about six or seven feet tall,” Monaghan said. “But I realized that wasn’t enough out here. Sculptures seem to shrink in size when they’re placed outdoors.”

A columbarium is a structure built (usually at a public cemetery) to respectfully store funeral urns containing cremated remains. It is a way for families to dedicate a space to their loved ones in a similar way to traditional burial.

The new structures at PV Public Cemetery has 1,408 spaces, also called “niches,” for urns, said PV Public Cemetery District Manager Robert Stanford.

On the afternoon of Sept. 18, a dedication ceremony was held at the cemetery.

“It’s wonderful,” said Steve George, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the PV Cemetery District. “A lot of people have had a hand in making this happen. It really does add something to the land here.”

Monaghan, who has taught at Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz, was inspired to create “Eternal” after seeing large birds fly over the cemetery regularly. The great blue herons’ tails meet towards the bottom of the sculpture to create the infinity symbol, representing the memories of those buried there.

Also, the sculpture is made of bronze—something that will last for generations, Monaghan said.

“There have been bronze sculptures dug up that were thousands of years old,” he said. “So we know this piece isn’t going anywhere for a long while.”

The process to create “Eternal” was long. For six months, Monaghan and his team first created a 1-foot tall scale model, then used a process known as “lost-wax casting,” where the final sculpture is cast from a clay mold coated in ceramic.

Monaghan gave much of the credit to his assistants Courtney Scruggs, Anastasia Oleson and Sophie Lastar. The groundskeepers and landscapers were also acknowledged for their help in designing the space.

“This was no doubt a group effort,” Monaghan said. “It was a lot of work. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

“Eternal” is open the public between sunrise and sunset at Pajaro Valley Public Cemetery, 2445 East Lake Ave., Watsonville.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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