Article: Westfield Evening News September 2003

Ceremony marks rededication of monuments

By Teri Breguet

Westfield-The sun glistened on the dignified statue of General William Shepard Saturday morning as city residents and dignitaries gathered at the city Green to commemorate a man who was instrumental in shaping the country and reforming the government during the American Revolution. With the Color Guards at attention, those in attendance enjoyed a lesson in Westfield’s history while celebrating the preservation and refurbishment of the monument that stands proudly at the end of Broad Street.

“This turnout is great,” said Mayor Richard Sullivan. “I think this does a lot to rekindle interest in the history of General Shepard and his life during that time in the city.”

Dozens turned out at the mid-morning ceremony to thank sponsors of the project as well as pay homage to veterans everywhere. Jacqueline Sears, a local artist and historic preservationist, created prints of the memorial and sold them to benefit the restoration project, which will cost about $10,000 when it is completed, and will include the restoration of the Civil War memorial, also on the town green.

“Working on this whole project has been an honor,” said Sears. “People have rallied around this, and the community spirit I’ve seen is really incredible.” In addition to Sears’ fund raising, the Westfield Rotary and Wal-Mart donated $500 each. The fund’s goal was met when official from Westfield Bank donated $8,100 to the cause, allowing Modern Art Foundry of Astoria, New York, to begin the restoration work in August.

“We’re grateful for all of the donations,” said Westfield Park and Recreation Director Ann Marie Heiser whose department oversees the park and the statuary there.

James Hagan, vice president of the Westfield Bank, was on hand to express his pride in the project. “We’re very happy to provide the funds for the statues. We want the statues to remain a part of Westfield’s history for generations to come.” Hagan noted that his company’s donation is an appropriate tie-in for this year’s big celebration as the bank marks 175 years doing business in the city.

Both monuments have been suffering from the effects of New England’s harsh extremes of weather since being erected. The Civil War memorial has been in the city since 1871, while the General Shepard statue was placed on the green in 1919. Black spots, the results of corrosion, have been developing on both, and some of the fixtures, such as the steel clamps on the Civil War monument, have been eating away at the statues.

Some of the repairs were extensive. For example, many names of the Westfield Civil War veterans on the bottom of the Civil War monument are damaged or gone and will be replaced. General Shepard’s sword attachment was repaired as well as the other memorial’s bayonet. Once cleaned, a green layer of protective patina will remain to protect these landmarks from the elements.

During the weekend ceremony, Mayor Sullivan pointed out the hard work of the United Methodist Church as they are currently performing their own renovating by purchasing and renovating the Healy Pease Funeral Home “We’re working very hard to make downtown

beautiful again,” said Reverend Harvester. “We want downtown to be historic, not just commercial. And it is happening because of merchants, private entrepreneurs, churches and citizens. I am glad to be a Westfield resident.”

Virginia Ahart, a retired history teacher from Hampshire Regional High School, spoke about Shay’s Rebellion and the significance of General Shepard. “The textbooks say General Shepard was a gentle, kind man,” Ahart explained. “His role in the Revolution is important. It is important to note that his rank was raised, not because he was appointed, but because his militia voted him general.”

As part of Saturday’s ceremony, Sullivan awarded Justin Tomasz Sadowski, a freshman at Westfield High School, a gift certificate and boom box donated by Wal-Mart as prizes in an essay contest. Sadowki read his poignant essay full of patriotic images of soldier’s past and present. He urged Americans to support troops by respecting the flag, hanging yellow ribbons and visiting veterans.

“Our soldiers have kept our glorious country shinning over the rest and deep in our hearts,” he said. His essay is on display at the Westfield Athenaeum.

Crystal Lee-Flynn, also a student at Westfield High School displayed her art work which earned her the same award. “It’s great to see the Westfield kids participating,” said Sullivan.