Article: The Republican April 2002

Published Friday, April 12, 2002.

Historic Statues to be restored

By George Graham

WESTFIELD-The statue of Gen. William Shepard is deteriorating, and a Southampton artist is leading the charge for its restoration.

Jacqueline M. Sears noticed last fall that the bronze statue on one of the city’s most famous sons and the nearby Civil War Monument were showing signs of environmental degradation.

A closer look at the statues, both of which adorn the outskirts of Park Square Green, shows patches of black encroaching on the statues’ green patina.

The problem, Sears said, "It should be corrected before it worsens and causes permanent damage to the statues. If it is left like this, things could chip off easier.” 

Sears has joined forces with the Westfield Parks and Recreation Department and the Historical Commission to raise money for a conservation fund that will be used to restore the statues. Anne Marie Heiser, recreation, parks and youth director for the city, said yesterday that it will probably cost $10,000 to $15,000 to have the statues restored.

Sears agreed to serve as fundraising coordinator, and she hopes to raise the needed monies this spring and summer so the restoration can be done by the fall. Heiser and Mayor Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said yesterday they were grateful that Sears has taken on the task. “She is very ambitious,” Heiser said.

Westfield resident John W. Shepard, great-great-great-grandson to the general, said yesterday he was glad that someone has taken an interest in preserving the statue. Shepard, 67, said he enjoyed growing up in the city and having a statue of a famous relative on the green. “It gave me some grief, too,” Shepard said, laughing, recalling the teasing of some of his classmates. “I was called the general.”

Heiser said the restoration project will go out to bid and the work itself should only take about two day to complete. Restorationists will remove the black corrosion without disturbing the statues’ green patina, which provides a natural measure of protection. Afterward, the statues will be given a protective coating of wax and leftover money from the fundraising will go toward yearly maintenance, Heiser said.

Sears, a Holyoke native, has no close ties to the city other than the fact that she and children belong to the Greater Westfield YMCA. She says, however, that as an artist she appreciates the beauty of the downtown area. “This is a beautiful city,” Sears said.

Shepard, a friend and confidante of George Washington, fought in 22 battles over the course of the Revolutionary War. He is perhaps best known for his repulse of the attack on the Springfield arsenal during Shays Rebellion in 1787.

The General Shepard was erected in 1919 and the Civil War Memorial, which features a Union soldier, was erected in 1871.

Checks should be made payable to: Westfield Memorial Conservation Fund, c/o Westfield Parks and Recreation Department, 4 Holcomb St., Westfield, MA 01085.

City schools are also getting involved. Middle school students are being asked to write essays on the monuments and high school students are being asked to draw them, Sears said.