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Seabiscuit - PBS Special
Stamp of approval: Seabiscuit stamp ceremony held Monday
Willits Daily News
The stylized stamp by artist John Mattos celebrates Seabiscuit's 1938 win at Maryland's Pimlico racetrack against War Admiral a moment Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit-An American Legend felt was a great way to honor the racehorse.
"In the decade of anguish known as the Great Depression, rags-to-riches Seabiscuit was a hero and source of home and inspiration to millions of Americans." Hillenbrand said. "This new U.S. postage stamp depicting the moment that won him a lasting home in our cultural memory is a beautiful and fitting tribute to this great American icon."
Jacqueline Cooper, executive director of the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit group headquartered at Ridgewood Ranch dedicated to preserving the 5,000-acre steading and its resources, emceed the ceremony.
Willits Postmaster Dale Briggs affixed a special first-day-of-sale pictorial postmark on the new 54-cent stamped envelope, officially releasing the stamp for purchase nationwide.
Two members from The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee also were in attendance. U.S. Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist and Stamp Committee member Donna de Varona recalled she once babysat one of the Seabiscuit film's future producers.
Former Second Lady Joan Mondale described Seabiscuit as "small in stature, but great in heart," and "embodied grace beauty, spirit and fire." Mondale also expressed her appreciation to the USPS for honoring Seabiscuit with a stamp.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale called the legendary racehorse "a national treasure," noting it was "a glorious day to celebrate the occasion," then assisted his wife in mailing congratulatory notes to the manager of the Pimlico postal substation and to Howard "Gelo" Hall of Baltimore, who as a 1o-year-old watched the famous race and has since became a fixture at Pimlico.
Also in attendance was Winnifred Groux, USPS San Francisco District manager, who explained the grueling stamp selection process. Of nearly 50,000 suggestions for stamps received by the post office each year, only about 100 or so are selected to be released following a three-year process, Groux said.
Cooper expressed her appreciation to Groux and USPS community relations manager James Wigdel for their support and expressed her "deepest gratitude" to Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation Vice President and event coordinator Gary Kozel.
Howard Hospital Foundation President Margie Handley, and Connie Wiley, a San Francisco woman who once met and petted Seabiscuit, placed a garland of roses around the statue's neck.
Chairman John Pinches, presented a resolution by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, and noted his grandfather had helped construct the buildings at Ridgewood Ranch, which still stand.
Willits resident John Pollard Sr., a nephew of Seabiscuit jockey Red Pollard, and James Watkins and wife Lucy, nephew of Seabiscuit trainer Tom Smith were introduced during the event.
Several members of the Howard family, including the widow of late Charles Howard III, Michelle, and daughter Haley, also were introduced during the ceremony. Hillenbrand's father, the Rev. Bernard Hillenbrand and wife Aliceann Wahlbruck also were introduced and at the event.
Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation President Tracy Livingston, and the artists who produced the life-sized bronze statue of the famous racehorse, Kim Corpany and Stan Watts of Atlas Bronze Casting, presented a commemorative Seabiscuit statue, Final Victory, depicting Seabiscuit crossing the finish line at the Santa Anita Handicap, to Mrs. Mondale.
Corpany and Watts were commissioned by Howard's great-grandson, Col. Charles Howard, also on the board of the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, to create two small statues, Final Victory and Morning Workout.
Also introduced during the ceremony was Livingston's daughter, Erin, part of Ridgewood's Teaching Riding as an Access to Independence and Learning (TRAIL) program, which provides horseback therapy to the physically, developmentally, socially and emotionally challenged.
"The Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation board of directors wishes to express its sincerest thanks to the many contributors, donators and event sponsors, especially Mr. and Mrs. Mondale, who traveled to be here on Mother's Day," Cooper said. "Everyone who helped and supported the event is so appreciated. We also want to give a special thank-you to Roy Betts, the Washington, D.C., community relations manager, and Layne Owens, project manager of the stamp development department."
A luncheon followed the ceremony, with diners relaxing before proceeding into an onsite mini-movie theatre where they watched historical footage about the life of the Howard family and Seabiscuit, and enjoyed a guided tour of historic ranch buildings from the Seabiscuit era.
One of the most anticipated events was watching Champs Lil' Biscuit a yearling filly descended from the legendary racehorse, and the first descendent to be born on Ridgewood Ranch in more than 50 years give her "stamp" of approval on newly released Seabiscuit envelopes.
Cooper, who lives in Redwood Valley and runs American Legend Horse Farm, owns Champs Lil' Biscuit and, along with trainer Kim Wright, has been teaching the filly to "autograph" in the same style her famous ancestor once did, by placing an inked hoof onto paper.
A few onlookers received an "autographed" copy of a past edition of The Willits News, which featured the upcoming release of the stamp. Mrs. Mondale took home an envelope bearing the pictorial postmark, and Josephine's "autograph."
The Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation offers tours of the ranch's grounds and buildings, preserves the bloodline of the famous horse, and reminisces with the public about how "one little brown horse changed the outlook of the nation during one of the hardest economic times of the century."
As Groux noted during her speech, "Today is not unlike those days, and hopefully we, too, will come from behind and end in a brilliant finish."
Picture 2: All guests lined up for photo op after the unveiling. Left: Dale Briggs, Willits Postmaster, Donna deVerona, Citizen's Stamp Committee Member, John Pinches, Mendocino County Board of Supervisor's chair, Joan Mondale, Tracy Livingston, Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation President, Jacqueline Cooper, Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation Executive Director, Walter Mondale, Winifred Groux, San Francisco Postal District Manager
Picture 3: Seabiscuit’s descendant Champs Lil'Biscuit giving her “stamp” of approval.
Picture 4: A Seabiscuit envelope with ‘Lil Biscuit's stamp and yesterday’s local newspaper.
|Site Last Updated February 20, 2009|