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Saturday, October 6, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cast in metal, this Ruehle isn't meant to be broken

Seattle Times staff reporter

ISSAQUAH — She sits with a finger poised in mid-ledger, her face upturned, eager to help. So lively, in fact, passers-by have sat down to talk with her before realizing she's cast of aluminum.

Issaquah's new sculpture was unveiled yesterday: a life-size tribute to former City Clerk Linda Ruehle, 59, recently retired after 30 years of service to the city and community.

The sculpture is by Rich Beyer, of Pateros, Okanogan County, the creator of "Waiting for the Interurban" in Fremont and other beloved Seattle-area creations.

Like so many of Beyer's pieces, this one has already been adopted by the locals. For its unveiling the statue was outfitted with the official Issaquah Salmon Days T-shirt, a golf cap, golf bag and bouquet of flowers.

Ruehle teared up looking at the sculpture.

"I'm just very overwhelmed and very proud. I'm tremendously honored. It's very humbling to think the city would do this for me."

The $13,000 sculpture was paid for primarily by private donations.

Beyer, 75, was not at the dedication. He is in Virginia Mason Hospital, recovering from a stroke that two weeks ago temporarily paralyzed his right side. Beyer said he hoped to be released from the hospital next week.

"I'm so restless to get out of here," he said from his hospital room.

Beyer said he was recovering well but did not yet know what the stroke would mean for his career.

"Maybe I will work more slowly than before, or more quickly," Beyer said. "I am trying to get ahead with a few other big sculptures I have lined up."

Margaret Beyer, his wife, said the two were headed to Hawaii to rest. She said Beyer, who is right-handed, was sketching again within days of the stroke and drew a dog by day five of his recovery. His son has brought Beyer clay to work with in the hospital.

Beyer was giving a speech in Okanogan to county officials about the need for an arts commission when he said he suddenly felt inarticulate and confused. He ended his speech and drove himself home to Pateros.

After medical consultation in Brewster, he was flown by helicopter to Virginia Mason.

The Seattle area is dotted with his works, including the bronze skipper feeding seagulls outside Ivar's restaurant on the waterfront; Sasquatch pushing over a house in Fremont; and a fisherman in Des Moines kissing a giant salmon with breasts. It raised a minor scandal when unveiled in 1993 and quickly became a local landmark.

Beyer said he delights in sculpting ordinary people.

"These pieces will represent what we were in these, our times, as strange and unbelievable as they are. Affirmation of people as themselves is a worthwhile devotion."

Lynda V. Mapes can be reached at 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com.

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