Peter Toth Has Heads-Up Works in Every State, So Canada Is Next
Toth learned wood carving as a boy while his family was living in Yugoslavia, in exile from their Hungarian homeland after the Soviets crushed the 1956 uprising there. "I watched my father carving toys for the family," says Toth. "He didn't regard himself as an artist, but I was inspired by his work." Later, even before the family immigrated to Akron, Ohio, in 1958, when Toth was 11, he began reading about the trials of the American Indians and was moved by the parallels with his personal history. "The Indians were made refugees in their own country," he says. "Because of my background, I know how they suffered."
At the age of 24, in 1971, Toth quit a hated full-time job in an Akron machine shop and set off to explore U.S. in a battered van. Over the next year the idea of a carved tribute to the Indians germinated. Finally, on a drive up the West Coast from La Jolla to San Francisco, he hit on the notion of a series of carvings. Toth immediately returned to Akron to make the first of his statues, chiseled into a dead elm tree in a local park. When it was dedicated, he knew he had found his calling and vowed to put at least one such memorial in each of the 50 states.
Along the way, Toth and his wife, Kathy, whom he wed in 1977, say they have scraped by on an income of about $10,000 a year, mostly from sales of some smaller wood carvings and Toth's semiautobiographical book, Indian Giver.
Toth's dedication to his project is impressive. So is his wife's dedication to him. <g>
For more on the subject of monuments, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.