Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, the sculptor of the giant cowboy boots outside North Star Mall, died at 76, only weeks before he was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the local landmark.
Brenda Crawford, the mall’s senior general manager, said her staff was working with Wade when he died on Dec. 23 in Austin.
She said the 35-foot tall boots are in the Guinness World Book of Records and have fans all over the world.
“We have a family that comes every year during the summer. They come from Austrailia. And they have their photo taken here in front of the boots,” Crawford said.
Mall shoppers said San Antonio would not be the same without the boots.
“They’ve been a landmark for San Antonio as long as I can remember,” Richard Terrell said. “If you’re giving directions, like I’ve done all my life, you used the boots to get you going west, north, south.”
“I mean they’re just iconic,” Reid Klotzbach added. “When you think of North Star, you don’t of the mall. You just think of the big boots in front of it.”
Crawford remembers Wade once told her the story of the person who broke into into the base of one boot and starting a fire inside, with smoke coming out of the top. She said the boots are now sealed up, and mall security keeps a close eye on them.
She explained hey are made from tubular steel with a polyeurohane cover designed to look like ostrich skin.
Wade supervised their repainting this past summer to prepare them for their anniversary, Crawford said.
There are still plans to honor Wade, she added, including a new Fiesta medal. The mall has also asked the San Antonio City Council to honor the late sculptor.
According to a press release from North Star Mall, the boots were originally part of the Washington Project for the Arts to create a Texas-themed sculpture for an empty lot, close to the White House. Wade was 36 when he received the job in 1979.
The mall’s parent company at the time, the Rouse Company, purchased the landmark for $20,000 and transported it to San Antonio. During the journey on a Texas highway, the sculpture got stuck under at least one underpass and then took back roads for the rest of the way.
Wade explained he earned his nickname “Daddy-O” during in his high school years in El Paso when he had slicked back hair and drove a 1951 hot rod.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, he earned a master’s in painting from the University of California, Berkeley. He later taught college classes in Waco, Denton and Dallas.
Throughout his career, Wade also designed other large pieces of art, including the frogs sitting on a Dallas taco restaurant, an iguana at the Fort Worth Zoo, a saxophone in Houston, a Saints football helmet at a saloon in Austin, and a six shooter in Del Rio.