Efforts Redoubled

On May 30, 2011, we rededicated the Holyoke Soldier’s monument in the Holyoke War Memorial Building due to torrential rain. The ceremony was intertwined with the annual Memorial Day festivities. One person I want to especially thank for the preservation of the Holyoke Soldier's Monument is Holyoke resident Cesar Lopez. He is a Program Analyst on the massive C-5 air transport planes at Westover Air base in Chicopee. This kind and resourceful Marine is the father of five and a member of the school committee.

He has worked extremely hard with Holyoke resident Manuel Colon to preserve the Holyoke Soldier’s Monument since April 2010. They completed their work in May of 2011.

Cesar has even found time to be the Executive director of Fundacion de La Famitia Nuevos Horizontes in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The foundation helps children in the Dominican Republic go to school by asking people to donate their gently used shoes so that the children can get an education. It’s a law in the country that you must have a pair of shoes to attend school. You can help Cesar's kids by contributing to his non-profit organization at New Horizons Family Committee Center, 189 Pine Street, Holyoke, MA 01040. Thank you.

Cesar Lopez was the Master of Arms at the Holyoke War Memorial Building at the Memorial Day ceremony. He looked so dignified and smart in his uniform as he called the veterans to arms as they marched up to the stage to start the ceremony. He had aslo assembled his youth group so they could say the names of the 55 soldiers’ who perished during the Civil War that are inscribed on the granite pedestal of the monument. Each and every one of these kids is special. They looked so neat and sounded so articulate, thanks to Cesar’s fine tutelage. I am so proud of them. I shook their hands and thanked them for doing such a great job.

It was a beautiful ceremony; our brave Veterans were honored and appreciated by the community. I only wish we could have had the rededication of the Holyoke Soldier’s Monument in front of the preserved monument. I wanted to pay our respects to the men and women who have suffered so dearly from serving in the Civil War. Sadly, some of our veteran’s did not survive the wars they so valiantly fought in; others have sustained permanent injuries, while others have emotional scares called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, PTSD. I was going to play a poignant song that Josh Groban, an American International tenor has on his CD, Illuminations called War at Home at the rededication ceremony.

After the Memorial Day ceremony, my husband Tommie and I went to the monument in Veterans Park to see how it looked; we couldn’t believe our eyes; the monument looked absolutely gorgeous!

Cesar had made every thing look perfect. He has applied a beautiful deep rich brown color to the bronze on Miss Liberty, the medallions and the bas-reliefs on the granite pedestal. The bas-reliefs depict scenes in the Civil War that are heart wrenching. The first bas-relief shows a newly enlisted cavalryman leaving home. He is about to mount his horse while his wife embraces him and his son stands next to him playing with his sabre scabbard. The second bas-relief is a battle scene with cavalrymen charging upon the infantry. The third bas-relief shows a rebel standing guard over a wounded prisoner and two others, one evidently a surgeon binding up the wounds. The fourth bas-relief shows a widow and her child at the gravesite of the husband and father in the south, where a loyal black guide has found the gravesite for them.

Sadly when the momunemnt was dedicated, an accident happened that took the life of one solder and injured two others, when after they fired 14 shouts from the saluting cannon, it exploded. There were 38 “beautiful young ladies” in the parade that represented the 38 states of the Union at that time. It was an incredible day. It cost $10,000 in 1876 to erect this beautiful tribute to our brave sons, according to records in the history room at Holyoke Community College.

Through Cesar’s dedication and hard work the monument has been preserved for future generations. He is also instrumental in acquiring a professional landscaper, and preserving the fence that surrounds the monument. It’s a unique wrought iron fence that is no longer manufactured today. The entire monument looks magnificent, all shiny and clean. It was so wonderful to see the monument brought back to its original glory.

Cesar Lopez is the kind of person that makes you realize how important each and every one of us is. He came to the United States in 1977 from the Dominican Republic. He lived in New York City and attended George Washington High School before coming to Holyoke in 1988. He is proud of being an immigrant and of being a citizen of the United States of America.

Holyoke is lucky to have such a good and wholesome person take on this project; I hope he runs for Mayor some day. He would definitely win with his no-nonsense; get the job done attitude. By the way, he never took a dime for all the stupendous work he did on the monument.

I asked him why he preserved the monument and he said, "The Holyoke Soldier's monument is an important symbol for city veterans and that we should preserve our heritage for future generations."

Together we raised $11,274.29 by having a concert, selling calendars and calling on local residents and businesses. There are countless contributors and advocates to numerous to mention here. You can go to the Republican Newspaper archives to retrieve all of their names.

It is uplifting to see so many citizens in Holyoke who have shown their respect to our brave veterans by contributing their time, talents and funds for the preservation of this grand monument that Holyoke is so fortunate to have in Veterans Park

I would like to thank Ann Marie Heiser, Recreation, Parks and Youth Director for the city of Westfield, Judith Miller Conlin, Chair of the Southampton Center Cemetery and Carolyn Porter, former Director of the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Department and Terry Shepard, acting Director for all their support in helping me raise the funds to preserve these magnificent monuments. A special thanks to two incredable veterans, Henry Jennings the chair of the Holyoke War Memorial Building and Cesar Lopez.. I would also like to thank David Reid, a former reporter for the Republican newspaper for his outstanding research on the artist who designed and sculpted the Holyoke Soldiers Monument. Most importantly, I would like to thank my husband Tommie Sears for his unyielding love and devotion. You can still donate to the monument for the restoration of the wrought iron fence that surrounds the monument by calling the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Department at 322-5620. Thank you.

If you would like to see the monument stay in good shape, you can purchase a print at the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Department at 322-5620. Thank you!