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Work begins to repair 'Sailor Bear' after vandals damage it

There have been a number of bear statues vandalized and damaged in downtown New Bern recently. Add "Sailor Bear" to that list. (Daisha Jones, NewsChannel 12 photo)

There have been a number of bear statues vandalized and damaged in downtown New Bern recently. Add "Sailor Bear" to that list.

"The sailor bear, I have a heartfelt attachment to," said Phillip Buffa Jr. "My good friend Al Ripka donated that bear to the men and women of the United States Navy. and for somebody to vandalize that, my emotion and distance for them is beyond my words."

Ripka was a World War II and Korean War veteran with the U.S. Navy who has since passed. He left behind a legacy and the bear statue. Now, the bear is broken, scratched and cracked.

This is the second time the sailor bear is being sent in for repairs.

"It needs to stop," Buffa said. "I mean senseless vandalism, for no reason, it's not their property. They need to leave it alone."

There is no official word when the bear statue will be fixed or if it will be put back up outside once it's complete.

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