Beloved 'Sun Worshipper' statue returns to the Valley

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - Something old is new again at Park Central in Phoenix. A statue called "The Sun Worshipper" that greeted shoppers in the '60s and '70s is back home. So where has it been all these years? And how did it end up back at the site of the very first outdoor shopping mall in Arizona?

He was brought back last week - not something new to the space, but something old and beloved. He might be worshipping the sun and rejoicing because he's come home. After more than three decades way, the Sun Worshipper Statue returns to Park Central in Pheonix.

"[It's] absolutely a great piece of art [and it] can stand the test of time and be brought and be loved and enjoyed by all," said Susan Byram with Plaza Companies Developers.

In 1967, it took Phoenix doctor Walt Emory five months to build this steel Sun Worshipper. He did it in the driveway of his home at 19th Street and Bethany Home Road in Phoenix.

"My dad loved the Native American culture and he grew up [in Phoenix]," said Alan Emory. "This was his home and I think it was his natural thing to make."

The Sun Worshipper was a major draw at Park Central Mall in the '60s and '70s but in the mid-'80s, new developers came and thought it didn't fit in.

"They sent away the Sun Worshipper and most people felt that when the Sun Worshipper left, so did the luck that was with Park Central,' said Byram.

One store owner, Charlie Sands, wouldn't let them destroy the statue and took it to his home in Phoenix. The Plaza Company bought the mall and believed the statue paid homage to a unique Valley history and brought it back two weeks ago. The artist's son had no idea.

"I saw [it on the news] Sunday night and there it was and I was [like], 'Oh yes, it's back!' it's thrilling - very thrilling."

The 19-foot statue is on the west side of the property and longtime Valley dwellers like Anna Lopez say the sculpture is welcome anywhere.