Porter County Sheriff's Department

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Basho Statue Surprise

EVAN E. PARKER | THE TIMES Valparaiso-area resident Hugh Smith, second from right, shakes hands with Design Toscano owner Michael Stopka on Tuesday after Smith was presented with a "Basho, The Sumo Wrestler" lawn ornament, left, and matching coffee table. Joining him were, from left, Porter County police Sgt. Timothy Emmons, Smith's daughter, Shannon Angelidis, and granddaughter Allison, 6, outside the Porter County Sheriff's Department, where the items were presented.


Man, who had statue stolen, gets surprise

Valpo-area resident given new Basho statue, Basho coffee table
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 12:49 AM CDT

VALPARAISO | Tears welled up in Hugh Smith's eyes when the owners of a company that sells lawn ornaments not only replaced the sumo wrestler statue that had been stolen from his yard, but also presented him with a matching coffee table.  He's beautiful," Smith said, gazing down at the crouching sumo wrestler. "This is fantastic."

The "Basho, The Sumo Wrestler" statue stolen from Smith's rural Valparaiso yard two weeks ago had sentimental value because the rock garden in which it rested was a project Smith worked on with his wife of 44 years, Patricia, before her death eight months ago.  Smith said he was angered by the theft and reported it to police, although he never expected to get Basho back. The original statue has yet to be found, but he said the next best thing is the new Basho he got Tuesday afternoon from Michael and Marilyn Stopka, owners of Design Toscano, the Elk Grove, Ill., company that sells Basho.  Michael Stopka said he was going to bed two Fridays ago when Fox News in Chicago ran a story about the Basho theft. He yelled for his wife to come watch the television. Once they heard about how much Smith cherished Basho, the Stopkas decided to drive to Valparaiso and give him the two Basho items.  "It's a heartwarming story," Michael Stopka said.  Both Basho items were wrapped with yellow bows and tags reading, "Welcome back. Design Toscano."  Smith said he was surprised to also receive a Basho coffee table, but he said it will fit in with the Oriental theme in his home.  Even before the gesture from the Design Toscano owners, Smith was a big fan of the company's products. He purchased an angel statue from Design Toscano for the area where he will bury his wife's ashes.  Smith's daughter, Shannon Angelidis, and granddaughter Allison, 6, joined him at the Porter County Sheriff's Department for the presentation of the Basho items. Smith left the ceremony with the Basho lawn ornament seat belted next to his granddaughter.  He plans to chain the new Basho down in cement and get a security camera for his property.

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