Professor Waverly Duck — we are not making this up — is an urban sociologist and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. We discovered Dr. Duck while reporting on the efforts to bring the Waverly Duck back to Albany's Waverly Lake.
The duck greeted drivers rolling into Albany along Pacific Boulevard in the mid-1980s, and was purchased in 1997 by antique shop owner Mike Briggs. In 2007, the city Parks Department decided to pull it from the water in the wake of concerns over its condition and upkeep.
The idea to resurrect the duck came in January, when the owner's widow, Pam Briggs, asked Mayor Sharon Konopa if the city would like to take ownership of the icon. But when the City Council washed its hands of the idea, the fate of the duck fell to Konopa, Councilor Ray Kopczynski and Ed Hodney, the city's acting economic development and urban renewal director.
The three have established a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/Waverly-Duck to finance the duck's return. So far, the trio have raised $1,670 of their $5,000 target.
One hundred of those dollars came from a recent donation by Dr. Waverly Duck himself.
"This is too fantastic," wrote professor Duck when making his donation. "Fortunately, I am the first Waverly Duck — 1976."
It's true. The giant faux waterfowl didn't splash onto Waverly Lake until the mid 1980s.
"I was relieved to learn I was the original," said Duck in a recent phone interview from Pittsburgh. "I was afraid I might learn that my story of origin had to do with my parents having visited Albany at some point."
His parents have not visited Albany. Still, Dr. Duck remains delighted. And as an urban sociologist, he has a professional take on the significance of community icons and their impact.
"There's the shared memories people have, and it represents membership in the community," said Waverly Duck about the Waverly Duck.
Duck said the duck represents even more for people when such memories can be revisited.
"It reinforces how people are integrated in the community," explained Duck. "And it's always great to see it come back."
Duck said the Waverly Duck also helps to establish a sense of heritage between parents and their children.
"A lot of people (who remember the duck) have grown up and are having their own children now," he said. "So it's paired with the experience of living in that place and visiting that site."
Duck said even the process of getting the Waverly Duck back into the water is a galvanizing element.
Main Auto Body is donating nearly 40 hours of labor, as well as materials, to restore the duck. This will include filling holes in sprayfoam, replacing fiberglass as needed and spraying the duck with a coat of primer. That work will likely be finished at the end of May.
After that, Konopa, Kopczynski and Hodney will seek volunteers to paint it so that it looks like an actual wood duck. Finally, Main Auto Body technicians will add three layers of ultraviolet protective coating.
If all goes as planned, according to Konopa, the Waverly Duck will likely be relaunched in late June. As luck would have it, Professor Waverly Duck will be in Seattle in late June, and has indicated that, schedule permitting, he could migrate south to witness the resurrection.
We would like to thank Albany Democrat-Herald for reprint permission.