SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The replacement "kiss" statue, the sculptured replica of an iconic photograph of a sailor and nurse smooching at the end of World War II, is on its way to San Diego Thursday and is set to be installed next week.
The original work by artist Seward Johnson called "Unconditional Surrender" that had been a popular downtown waterfront attraction for years was only on loan, and it was removed last year.
Donations amounting to $1 million paid for the creation of a permanent replacement, which is scheduled to arrive in San Diego on Valentine's Day, according to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and a group called Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive. A dedication ceremony is set for two days later.
The ceremony is scheduled to include unveiling of the 25-foot-tall statue, a presentation of new landscaping for the area that includes cherry trees donated by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego and a renewal of vows by several couples married during the war.
Organizers said Mayor Bob Filner will begin a countdown to the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, which will be marked in August 2015.
"Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and ages," Midway President and CEO Mac McLaughlin said. "We're looking forward to San Diegans stepping forward to honor our greatest generation during the dedication ceremony and to help keep their spirit alive by donating food or adopting a homeless pet, all in the interest of the community."
The organizers said they are also setting up a festival on Navy Pier that will include children's activities, pet adoptions and the San Diego Food Bank.
Keep the Spirit of '45 Alive also plans a conference associated with the event that will include Jerry Coleman, the Padres broadcaster and former Marine pilot; Jerry Yellin, who flew the last combat mission of the war; Nell Calloway, granddaughter of Flying Tigers leader Gen. Claire Chenault; and Kelly Estes, whose great-uncle flew on the Doolittle Raid.
Over the past week, the statue has been put on display in New Jersey and Alabama as it makes its way to San Diego, according to various news reports.