200-year-old tree being turned into a giant Jayhawk sculpture in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Like the 200-year-old tree its being made from, there's a lot of history behind the giant Jayhawk sculpture a Lawrence family is making.

“The north half of it fell down two years ago. My mother was -- she sat here and she said, 'That tree was first alumnus,'” said Nancy Yonally, the homeowner.

Dan Besco, a chainsaw sculptor from Louisburg, is carving various incarnations of the Jayhawk mascot into that tree.

“We`re taking this tree that was approximately 200 years old, turning it into a Jayhawk sculpture. It`s going to have a 4-foot-tall Jayhawk at the top, and then all of the old Jayhawks will be going up the tree,” Besco said.

This farmstead once belonged to the late Margaret and David Lee Shirk. Their daughter, Nancy Yonally, lives here now.

“The guys who finally cut the rest of it down said you need to do something for your mother and father, and this is the only thing I could really think of to do,” Yonally said.

Dan Besco works on a Jayhawk sculpture made from a 200-year-old tree on Aug. 24, 2018, in Lawrence.

She said her parents were devout KU fans, and the family`s ties to KU go back decades.

“They had basketball players coming out here. Dr. Naismith was a good friend of the family,” Yonally said.

She found Besco online and asked him to turn this dead tree trunk into a sculpture that the Shirks would truly love.

“People have such a long history with the family, and the barn had lots of events back in the day. The house and even the tree was very well known in the area,” Besco said.

“I turned him loose. I said do your thing, and he did,” Yonally joked.

Besco started the project last Friday and said it will take him about a week to complete.

Yonally said she think this is the best tribute to her parents and family she could ever think up and hopes others get to enjoy it.

“He`s going to put stairs on the backside so people can get up there and have their picture taken,” Yonally said.

She said anyone is welcome to come out and see it and take pictures.