This Week's Poll


Stolen Sculptures Irreplaceable

Diane Sleszynski pleads for the return of her cherished horse sculptures with no questions asked. -Photo: Submitted

By Jeffry Boatright

White Springs, Fla., –It has often been said that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. In the case of Diane Sleszynski, however, it is believed that one person’s treasure became another person’s junk.

According to Sleszynski, who resides in the Tampa area, one of her most prized possessions was recently taken from the lawn of what was formerly known as Pritchard’s Tea Room, a historical location in White Springs. Sleszynski’s prized possession was hundreds of railroad spikes that had been artistically amassed and sculpted into a beautiful pair of horses.

Last seen on June 3, outside the historic structure that is said to have been the birthplace of second Girl Scout troupe, the horses represented so much more than just a heap of welded railroad spikes to Sleszynski, who has spent many years rescuing and training horses. The sculptures, which were chained to a tree, represented the veteran trainer’s profound love for horses and sincere appreciation of art. Still, her deep affection for the sculptures went much deeper than that. They also symbolized the love shared between Sleszynski and her husband, Ray, who is retired after 32 years of service in the United States Navy.

For more than three decades, Ray Sleszynski has championed Diane’s love of animals and supported her animal rescues. With his failing health, Diane explained that they both realized her days of riding and training horses were abruptly coming to an end. “I need all my energy to care for him,” she stated.

The horse sculptures, which is the last gift that Ray has been able to give to Diane, serve as a reminder of better days, Diane explained. “I have been fortunate enough to have a husband who loves unique art, and purchased the horses for me.”

It is obvious that the sculptures represent so much more to Diane Sleszynski than art alone. They embody her passion for horses and Ray’s constant appreciation and support for Diane and her animals. As admirers of art, Ray and Diane also recognized the monetary value of the statues, which Diane valued at five thousand dollars each.

When asked what she would tell whoever is responsible for the missing sculptures, Diane replied, “I would tell them that these sculptures are more than the sum of their parts. They may be just scrap metal to them, but they represent the creative genius of a wonderful artist, who sourced the material and welded the spikes together into these unique sculptures.”

While Diane pleads for the return of her cherished sculptures with no questions asked, she would also like for others to be aware that we are all vulnerable to theft, even in the wonderful communities of the Suwannee River Valley. “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, it doesn’t get worse than this plague of poor health, and then to have thieves steal from anyone, especially from someone who served our country with honor and distinction. That is such a dishonorable act,” Diane emphasized.

Thieves do see value in our possessions, and unfortunately, the value they often perceive probably won’t compare to the sentimental value we hold for certain things. Decent people are plagued with the threat of theft, regardless of how guarded we might be, or how proactive and attentive our law enforcement agencies are. Still, we must remain vigilant, taking precautions, and immediately notifying local law enforcement in the event of criminal activity. Ultimately, we maintain our dignity, and like Diane Sleszynski, we hold dear to the memories that can never be stolen and sold for scrap iron.

The stolen horse sculptures, seen in the above photo attached to the tree in front of the house, were taken from what was formerly known as Pritchard’s Tea Room, a historical location in White Springs near the Stephen Foster State Park entrance. -Courtesy Photo