DeKALB – Diesel, Northern Illinois University’s first live Siberian husky mascot, spent nine seasons patrolling the sidelines of football games before retiring in 2013 to make way for the current mascot, Mission.
In honor of this service and the service of mascots to come, a group of NIU alumni, including Diesel's owner Tom Bonnevier, organized the Diesel Memorial Project to dedicate a $25,000 statue of Diesel, who died in 2015, at the Huskie Stadium during the NIU football team’s home opener Sept. 1 against Boston College.
NIU alumni and project committee member Bob Smith said he reached out to Renee Bemis of St. Charles about sculpting the statue, which will depict Diesel holding up a paw for a high-five, as he would to cheerleaders after NIU scored. Smith said he knew that Bemis would be invested both personally and professionally in a tribute to Diesel.
“My husband and I have supported the NIU athletics department a long time, and when [Bonnevier and Smith] contacted me, I said I would be honored to do it,” Bemis said. “When they place him down at the stadium, people are going to walk by and high-five him all the time.”
She added that the statue has been completely cast and now awaits artificial patina and a pedestal.
Smith said the committee is still intent on dedicating the statute by fall's home-opener, even though they still must raise about $12,500, or half the total cost of the project.
“We may have to raise funds after the home opener, but we’re still going to go through with it, and we’ll just have to figure out a way to advance the funds to pick it up and dedicate it on Sept. 1,” Smith said.
Once Mission retires as NIU’s mascot, his name and years of service will be added to the statue, along with those of any future mascots.
Donations can be made on the project’s GoFundMe page or by mailing a check to the Diesel Memorial Project Fund and sending it to the First National Bank, c/o deposits, at 141 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.
“We’re very appreciative of the donations up to date, but we still need more,” Bonnevier said. “But it is good to see the support by NIU alumni and NIU fan base, because we have such a great fan base.”