Article: The Republican Sept 2003

Westfield statues given a renewed lease on life

By Alex Peshkov

Westfield-Southampton artist Jacqueline M. Sears believes people should appreciate the memorials established for veterans. Sears, who led the charge to raise money to restore the statue of Revolutionary War Gen. William Shepard at Park Square Green and the nearby Civil War soldier’s monument, “couldn’t wait for the day when the work would be done.”

Now the two pieces of the city’s history stand cleaned and restored in all their glory. “And nobody is moving the statues,” Sears laughs. “They are going to stay exactly where they are.”

She said the rumor is still going around that one day the general, now standing with his back to the Green, will be turned around. “People asked me “Are they gonna turn him around?” Sears said, recalling her fund-raising effort.

Sears joined with the Westfield Parks and Recreation Department and Historical Commission last year to raise $10,000 for removing the black corrosion from the statues and some restoration work, including fixing of the lettering on the pedestal of Civil War monument. The statues kept their green patina and were given a protective coating of wax.

“The general was cleaned last time about 50 years ago,” Sears said. “As for the soldier’s monument, I have no records. According to what I saw in the library, it was never cleaned.”

Among those who donated money for the restoration work are Westfield Bank, $8,100.00, Wal-Mart, $500, the Westfield Rotary Club, $500, the Historical Society, $300, and “a lot of other people in the community who donated smaller amounts.”

The restorations, Modern Art Foundry of Astoria, N.Y., will continue similar efforts in Southampton, Holyoke and Springfield, Sears said.

She recalled the last January when Jeffrey Spring, project manager and grandson of the founder of Modern Art Foundry, came to Westfield to look at the monuments. “The winter was awful, but it was a…warmer day. It was maybe 35(degrees) or something, and it was partly cloudy. We went to each monument and every time we got to see a monument, every time we were taking a picture, the sun came out. I thought `Wow!’ That’s really neat. We must be doing something right.”