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Stockbridge Family Has Strong Ties to Heroic Sculptor

Tammy Daniels

We had a chance to meet G. Marie Bidwell Leuchs at the rededication of the Pittsfield war memorial on Monday. Leuchs is the niece of H. Augustus Lukeman, the sculptor who created the paen to the city's World War I veterans back in 1926.

Marie Bidwell Leuchs, left, Catherine Bohrman and David LaRocca in front of Lukeman's Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

She and her daughter, Catherine Leuchs Bohrman, were noted in the crowd who attended the ceremony as being a link to the well-known artist.

Leuchs is actually the niece of Lukeman's wife, Helen Bidwell, who died in 1971 at the age of 82. She outlived her husband by 36 years; he died in 1935 at age 64. The couple had no children, said Leuchs.

The Bidwell and Leuchs families appear to have adopted his legacy, and the Leuchs donated his papers to the Smithsonian Institute.

The Bidwell name has deep roots in New England (John Bidwell being a founder of Hartford, Conn.) and are descendants of the Rev. Adonijah Bidwell, Tyringham's first minister and namesake of Bidwell House and Museum.

(Oddly enough, when we popped Bidwell House into Google we got a link to another Bidwell House, named for a John who searched for gold at Sutter's Mill and married a Kennedy — not that one — from Massachusetts.)

Lukeman married into the old Berkshire family and also studied with Daniel Chester French. It's not surprising that he settled into Stockbridge and built a studio in Glendale, where French built Chesterwood, his summer home and studio.

Lukeman also sculpted the McKinley statue in Adams in 1903 and an old Berkshire Eagle article notes he was incorrectly described as a "Stockbridge native" at the time. He actually hailed from Richmond, Va., and would spend a few years working on the Stone Mountain memorial to the heroes of the Confederacy.

Leuchs stands to be recognized.

The Leuchs share the same zeal for artistry — Marie Leuch's late husband Frederick was a noted stained-glass expert who operated out of Lukeman's studio on Lukeman Lane for a time. Their daughter Catherine is a sculptor and works in bronze, although her pieces are far more abstract and intimate than Lukeman's heroic Beaux Arts works. You can see her collection here.

They were rightly proud of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and took a moment to have their photo taken in front of it with artist David LaRocca of Watertown. LaRocca sculpted the missing laurel leaves, rifle strap and bayonet lost through time and vandalism. It took about six months of careful fitting and crafting to integrate the pieces seamlessly into the work, he said.

"I wanted to please Augustus Lukeman," said LaRocca.

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Stockbridge Slams Hood on Car Club

Staff Reports

We received an interesting e-mail last night pointing us to a blog that details "a car club massacre in 3 parts." According to the writer, a friend and longtime mechanic in Stockbridge has been told he can't fix his friends' cars for free anymore.

Apparently his neighbors are upset with the number of "high end" cars making their way to Jeff, who built a garage at his home to work on his collection of classic cars — and help out any of the many friends he's made who share the same passion. The not-so-friendly neighbors thought the retired mechanic was running a commercial operation and called the building inspector.

Jeff got a cease-and-desist order. The blogger, "Just A Car Geek," accompanied Jeff to the ZBA meeting this past Tuesday along with a bunch of others in their informal car club. The ZBA, he writes, couldn't find anything wrong but still voted to order Jeff to stop doing what he wasn't doing.

While they agreed that everything was on the up and up, they seemed to feel, like the neighbors, that Jeff has too many friends with nice cars. We, the half dozen or so "club members," were too many acquaintances for Jeff to have. By a vote of 4 to 1, the ZBA upheld the cease and desist order. If anyone stops by Jeff's house, they had better not pop the hood on their car for any reason. (Including a jump start, which could be a problem for those with British cars, I suppose.) The city will impose a hefty fine on Jeff if we do.

Jeff, he wrote, is taking the issue to court. Read the whole story, starting with Post 1.

Now, we don't have the neighbors' side of this thing. Maybe there was too much noise, too much traffic. But we'll be first to admit that we've had our cars worked on by friends — in their yards or garages — and been thankful. When your engine starts making some weird noise it's nice to have a friend who'll say, "stop by and I'll take a look at it."

Says "Just A Car Geek":

If this decision is upheld, it's possible you'll see towns trying to pass ordinances and/or bylaws saying that you can't fix or restore your own car in your home garage, let alone help a friend or family member. ... The thought of what the outcome of this case could have on car geeks, collectors, hobbyists, amateur racers, etc., is chilling.

 

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Northern Berkshire Relay Raises $125K

Staff Reports

The fifth annual Northern Berkshire Relay for Life turned out a record crowd on Friday night, May 21. More than 200 cancer survivors walked the red carpet for the traditional Survivors' Lap at Noel Field in North Adams.

Relay organizers said this was the biggest event yet, with more than 1,000 team members, friends and family raising $125,000 to date - up $1,000 just since Sunday. Donations can still be made by contacting Laura.Baran@cancer.org.

The top team so far is Everday Heroes with $3,900; top individual fundraiser is Joan Bator of the Hike to Strike team with $1,386.

The weather was beautiful for this year's event, after last spring's rainy night. Still, the 2009 Relay raised more than $124,000 for cancer research and patient and family support.

Photos of this year's event will be posted later Tuesday.

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It's Never Too Late to Join the Circus

Staff Reports

...That's what the Nutshell Playhouse says. Its studio is now accepting students for ongoing classes in circus skills, including acrobatics, slack rope (see photo), tumbling and juggling. No experience is necessary.

Don Jordan, founding director of the playhouse, will teach. Jordan's resume includes directing the Pickle Family and Pan Twilight circuses, appearing on Broadway in "Mummenschanz," and touring the U.S. and Europe as a clown and mime.

Classes meet every Wednesday night from 7 to 9 at 7 North St. on Park Square, Pittsfield.

For more information, contact Jordan at 413-637-1245 or info@nutshellplayhouse.org.

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Letter Carrier Food Drive Collects Donations

Staff Reports

 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Volunteers boxed up hundreds of pounds of food for the spring Letter Carriers Food Drive.

Residents could leave non-perishable food items next to their mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up during his or her rounds. The donations were taken to 107 Main St., where they were boxed and up

The spring event is sponsored by National Association of Letter Carriers Local 286 and coordinated with Berkshire Community Action Council  North.

Marie Harpin of BCAC North said the group had to scramble to find new place to package the food because work is being done at the North Adams Armory, the usual location. David Carver donated use of 107 Main (which is getting a lot of use as a community site lately) and Big Y donated cardboard boxes for packaging.

Donations will be taken to community food pantries.

Update: Harpin told us Monday that the final tally was 7,000 pounds, a good number although not as much as the more recent record of 8,100. Harpin put it down to the lingering fiscal troubles that are forcing so many to pinch pennies.

Volunteers and postal workers haul food donations from a mail truck to the packaging site at 107 Main. An errant Toyota parked in the 'no parking' spot messed up the delivery somewhat, forcing the mail trucks to double park.

 

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