Article: The Republican October 2004

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Here is an article published in the Holyoke Plus section of The Republican on Wednesday, October 6, 2004.

Artist seeks to restore Veterans Park statue

By David Reid

Holyoke – For 128 years, the beautiful statue of Lady Liberty honoring the city’s Civil War dead has held a central place in downtown’s oldest and largest public park. Designed by noted sculptor Henry Jackson Ellicott and executed in bronze and granite, the memorial has graced the center of Veterans Park since 1876, when it was formally dedicated. Displayed on four panels sculpted in bas relief, the scenes depict a Union soldier leaving his family for the war, fighting and dying on the field of battle, and the grieving of family members.

The names of more than four dozen city dead from the country’s bloodiest war were carved in the stone, as an imposing Lady Liberty-her original brown tomes streaked in green from oxidation-looms above holding a wreath and shield. But the elements from 128 winters and summers have taken their toll on the statue itself, on the once sharply carved names, on the iron fence that surrounds the sculpture, and on the landscaping within. And it is hard to see the effects on an earlier restoration project in 1962.

Enter Jacqueline M. Grenier Sears. A former city resident who graduated from Holyoke High School and Holyoke Community College, Sears, a Southampton artist, has a passion for restoring historic monuments for soldiers.

Sears has organized an ad hoc group of city boosters who hope to raise $15,000 or more to clear, restore and preserve the statue, its fence and grounds.

Those already on board the campaign are veteran Henry B. Jennings, chairman of the Soldiers’ Memorial Commission, Parks and Recreation Director Carolyn L. Porter, Historical Commission Chairwoman Olivia Mausel and a coterie of local businesspeople and historic preservationists.

In 2002, she and other volunteers in Westfield raised $10,000 to restore a statue of Revolutionary War Gen. William Shepard and a Civil War soldier’s monument downtown. A confidant of George Washington who fought in 22 battles against the British, Shepard is best known for repulsing the 1787 attack on the Springfield arsenal during Shays’ Rebellion.

Currently, Sears also has her sights set on two other military statue restoration projects in Springfield and Southampton.

In Westfield, she lined up a professional restoration business people to contribute to the project. Best of all, she also got the school system involved, mobilizing dozens of students to write essays or create artwork focusing on Shepard and his statue. The entries were hung in the children’s museum downtown.

Although she has no strong military ties and took little notice of military history in her youth, Sears said a health issue four years ago forced changes in her life. As a result, she concentrated on her drawing and found much of beauty to appreciate in her life, including military statuary. “I realized these monuments are standing history lesson,” she said in an interview last week.

Before completing the Westfield project last year, Sears followed the cues of local veterans and examined the Soldiers’ Memorial in Veterans Park. Having passed by the statue hundreds of times but never seeing it before, Sears said she was shocked to see its beautiful details. “I didn’t even know that statue was there,” she said. “Teachers didn’t even talk about it in school.”

Sears has talked to school officials here about her plans for a “Holyoke Memorial Preservation Essay and Art Contest.” Exactly which age groups will be eligible is still being discussed, although a spring deadline is likely.

Meanwhile, Sears is already approaching businesspeople organizations and the city for financial help, contest prizes or restoration services. And a bank account has been set up for donations: The Holyoke Memorial Preservation Fund, c/o PeoplesBank, 314 High Street, Holyoke, MA 01040. For information, call Porter’s office at (413)322-5620.

Sears said that most youngsters today know little about local history from the Civil War era. The project, she hopes, will bring public attention to “what our Civil War Soldiers have done for us and how we can show our appreciation…I want the whole community to walk around the monument and pay tribute.”

Mayor Michael J. Sullivan said efforts like those of Sears mean a lot to prideful but poor communities such as Holyoke. It’s important to the city and we’re excited about it,” he said last week. “And it really needs a citizens group to step up to the plate.”