ROCHESTER — A small marble statue borrowed from the downtown library here finally made it back — 43 years after it was first taken.
Scott Stewart, 52, of Rochester said his childhood was plagued with abuse, but he sought refuge at the Rochester Central Library. In 1971, the 9-year-old spent his days looking at books and often borrowed art pieces for his home.
"The house I lived in was really horrendous and I wanted to surround it with the comfort of the library," Stewart said. "I would always take things back, except this one piece. I felt like I couldn't part with it."
To him, the statue of an owl protecting its babies represented his mother's best efforts to care for him and his brother. Though the sculpture wasn't his property, he said the piece brought him strength and peace in turbulent times.
"I hung on to that thing and cherished it," he said. "I treated it like it was gold."
Stewart became an emancipated minor at 13 years old and said he spent the rest of his youth in and out of foster homes around this upstate New York city. Forty-three years later, Stewart finally felt that the statue had fulfilled its purpose and returned it Sunday.
"I felt like after all these years I was finally able to close the door on that chapter," he said. "It was quite exhilarating."
Although the library's sculpture collection no longer exists, a library clerk welcomed the statue back and pardoned Stewart of his overdue fines.
"When we have a story like this, it makes us pause and makes us appreciate what we do," said Ove Overmyer, communication associate for the Monroe County Library System. "He was looking for a symbol of comfort, and he found it at the library."