NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Veterans Day observances in the city will be capped by a special ceremony a dedication at the North Adams Armory for Army Spc. Michael R. DeMarsico II.
DeMarsico, 20, was killed five years ago by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. His death prompted an outpouring of grief from the community over the loss of the young sports enthusiast and Drury High graduate.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the idea of a memorial had been on his mind for several years but he did not want to suggest to the family a building still under renovation and empty.
That changed this year as the final touches are being planned for the 80-year-old Armory that's finding a new purpose with an educational slant.
"I've thought for several years now I wanted to do this but it's really coming down to the wire," said the mayor at a meeting with DeMarsico's parents, Michael R. DeMarsico Sr. and Lisa Babcock DeMarsico.
The DeMarsicos said they were pleased that the dedication would be at the Armory -- Michael had known he would join the military since the age of 9 and loved to play sports. The gym at the Armory, even before the National Guard moved out, has been the location of hundreds of basketball games over the years.
Lisa DeMarsico said the youth groups are "pleased that this building will be dedicated to someone who loved this community so much."
Now it will also house the School Department's alternative education program E3 Academy and be the site of the Northern Berkshire Academy, a regional special education collaborative. The mayor believes there may be more educational programs moving in as well.
"I like to think [Michael] had a hand in this because that's my field," DeMarsico said. "It has a special meaning to me."
Alcombright is ending his fourth and final term in December. The Armory is at the end of more than a decade of renovation that will be completed next year with the rebuild of the facade and steps.
"To have Dick be the one standing there on the day this is dedicated holds a special meaning to us," DeMarsico said of their longtime family friend.
City Planner Larysa Bernstein has been working with Specialty Minerals to get a "gorgeous stone" that will be prepared by David Ciepiela of Berkshire Monuments to carry a bronze plaque with DeMarsico's uniform picture and wording by his family.
The stone will be located near the corner of Ashland and Porter streets as a permanent reminder of DeMarsico's sacrifice for his nation. Another element, such as a picture or plaque, will be placed inside. But his name won't be added to the Armory, unlike the dedication of the skating rink to Peter W. Foote III, who was killed in action in 1968 in Vietnam.
That's as it should be, said Lisa DeMarsico.
"Michael loved the military but he also loved history so he wouldn't want his name to take the place of something that is such a historical site," she said.
The ceremony is slated to take place at about 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, after the Veterans Day parade and observances. Ashland Street between Washington Avenue and Porter Street will be closed to traffic from noon to 1 and the ceremony will take place in front of the building.
A number of local, state and federal dignitaries have been invited to attend, as well as the military family that has surrounded the DeMarsicos since Michael's death. The Boy Scouts will raise the flag on a new flagpole being installed next week and the Drury band will perform. The Girl Scouts, Drury High football, youth basketball, and other community representatives are expected to attend. Alcombright said the victors of Tuesday's election will be invited along with the current city officials.
Lisa DeMarsico envisions future students and youths walking by her son's memorial stone long after she's gone.
"The youth that go in that side door will stop at the stone ... and say, 'who's that? and their mom or dad will read to them, who that is," she said. "That's been my feeling from Day One, I want him not to be forgotten and this will allow for that. We won't forget him, but any child or person walking through will get to know him."
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