Danbury’s biggest greeter – literally – about to get his finishing touches

Jun 18, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Jacques’ hands were made smaller than the statues’ original hands, but are big enough to be reflective of the original design. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

The once aging, dilapidated, 32-foot-tall statue that has been greeting drivers on SR 169 in Danbury Township for decades has been restored to its former glory and is ready for the finishing touches. The project, which was a collaborative effort between renovation expert Mike Cahill and businessman Dave Young, preserved a piece of Danbury history that has been bringing smiles to families for generations.

The statue earned the moniker Handless Jacques because his hands, which once held a roast beef sandwich outside a Marion restaurant, were missing. But Handless Jacques is handless no more and is now affectionally known simply as Jacques. His hands were added during the restoration project.

Since then, the oversized hands, which measure about five-feet across, have been a source of discussion among locals, who wonder about their large size. In reality, Jacques’ hands shrunk.

Mike Cahill poured hours of effort into restoring Jacques. His payment, he says, are the thousands of smiles inspired by the statue. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

A vintage photo Cahill provided from the Marion County Historical Society shows Jacques standing outside the Marion restaurant, its approximately seven-foot hands holding a giant sandwich. A lawnmower below is dwarfed by the hands looming above. Emerald FX, a custom fiberglass business, created Jacques’ new hands last year. Cahill decided to have the hands made smaller but still reflective of the original design.

“This is a cartoon character built to sell things. It’s not proportional, but we made the hands smaller because we didn’t want people in Canada to see them,” Cahill joked.

Logistical obstacles have forced a few changes to the project’s initial plans. The original landscape design was modified, and stone will soon be laid at the base of the statue. A planned stone monument and flagpole had to be waylaid because of zoning issues, and there were obstacles to placing signage at the site.

Dave Young, left, and Mike Cahill collaborated with volunteers to restore Danbury’s famous statue, Jacques. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“We’re looking at putting a plaque here that tells the story. We want people to know it’s not just a gimmick for a gas station,” said Young, who owns Jacques and the property he stands upon.

Cahill is working with a professional videographer to create a short video story of the project. When it is complete, a sign will be installed near the statue with a link to the video. The video and sign will be the final touches to complete the project, which has gained world recognition.

Jacques has a twin statue that was restored by businessman Terry Byrne as a giant bobblehead and then installed outside Buckeye Express Diner in Bellville off I-71, Exit 165. Together, the statues made world news.

“We are being recognized by the Bobblehead Hall of Fame as the world’s tallest twin fiberglass statues,” Cahill said.

Dave Young, left, and Mike Cahill stand next to Jacques, the 32-foot statue on Young’s Danbury property. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

On June 15, Cahill partnered with JJ’s Table and Bar to sell roast beef sandwiches reminiscent of the ones Jacques once advertised.

“A lady who worked at the restaurant told us what was on them – just roast beef on a potato roll wrapped in foil. That’s it,” Cahill said. “Jacques’ roast beef sandwiches are being sold for the first time in over 50 years.”

The sandwich sale was one more way to keep Jacques’ history alive. Cahill and Young are grateful for the many people who supported the project. The hours and effort that Cahill and Young poured into restoring Jacques were motivated by a love for their community.

“It’s the project that keeps giving smiles. We did it to help the area,” Cahill said. “I’m proud to have done this. We want to preserve the smiles we’ve created.”

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