Dominic Gospodor, the energetic Seattle millionaire who puzzled thousands with his tubular 100-foot-tall monuments near Toledo, died Sept. 16 of a massive stroke just a few weeks shy of his 87th birthday.
Gospodor changed the landscape of Lewis County in 2002, building enormous tributes to Mother Teresa, Native Americans and Holocaust victims. His creations stopped traffic and baffled passers-by at first, but eventually became landmarks listed in "Roadside America" and other guides to the nation's quirkiest attractions.
A lifelong bachelor, Gospodor is survived by his trio of towering steel towers that twinkle in the night, a set of gold-painted statues and an enormous weathervane he claimed was the largest in the world.
"He was quite excited about them," his sister, Theresa Gleason, 82, said Monday. "He felt he was doing a one-of-a-kind sort of thing and he really enjoyed his work with them."
Gospodor spent upwards of $1 million on his monuments. He often heard criticism that he should donate his resources to charity instead, but he was unfazed by those who tried to tell him how to spend his own money.
"I think what I'm doing is a good purpose and that's all that's necessary," he told The Chronicle in 2002.
Dominic F. Gospodor was the fifth of eight children. Born in Jamestown, N.D., he enlisted in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. He ended up in Alaska at the Elmendorf Air Force Base. He settled in nearby Anchorage, where he worked in civil service and had a concrete business on the side, according to longtime friend Audrey Schefers, whose husband, Jim often worked with Gospodor.
After settling in the Anchorage area, Gospodor bought up bare land in the years before Alaska became a state, selling decades later. He told The Chronicle he made his money in "fortunate" real estate dealings.
In his later years the millionaire would walk and ride a scooter through downtown Seattle, where he lived in a high-rise. He loved talking with people, even street people that often were ignored by others, Schefers said. In his will he left a sizeable bequest to charities that care for the homeless, she said.
His dabbling in unique construction began in the early 1990s when he saw a small Byzantine Catholic church in Anchorage that lacked a garage. He decided an Alaskan priest needed a garage during the winter, and vowed to build one. Over time the project expanded to include the rectory and church hall. In all his $12,000 garage turned into an $800,000 renovation that featured a dramatic internally lit copper Byzantine dome that glowed through thousands of tiny holes.
St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church and its spectacularly glowing dome — designed by Gospodor — has become an Anchorage landmark, Schefers said.
Toledo wasn't Gospodor's first choice for his monument park. He planned to build his spires and glowing orbs in Sutherlin, Ore., but citizen opposition soured him on the town.
He faced criticism when he announced his plans in Toledo, but he forged ahead.
"People didn't always agree with his philosophies and ideas," Schefers said. "He'd just shrug his shoulder with his twinkly eyes and grin and say ‘OK.' You just knew he'd do what he wanted to do."
Construction of the monuments in 2002 led to backups on the freeway and widespread puzzlement, but over time the monuments have faded into the background, according to Jerry Pratt, mayor of nearby Toledo.
"I always thought they needed to promote them more," said the mayor, who counts himself a fan. "A guy should put a hamburger stand at the bottom of them."