Pittsfield Unveils Restored Monument; Towns, Cities Mark Memorial Day
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When it was first dedicated 84 years ago, the governor, state attorney general and a state justice were in attendance, along with more than 25,000 people and five marching bands.
Just eight years had passed then since the "war to end all wars" had ravaged Europe. On Monday, four score and four years later, the turnout wasn't quite as impressive — more in the hundreds than thousands — but for those who attended the re-dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the spirit in which it was created remained.
"It has different meanings for different people," said Jeff Thompson, chairman of the committee that raised $65,000 to repair and maintain the bronze figures of four servicemen and the goddess Athena. He described it as Pittsfield's "Wall," like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. "For some it could be a place to remember those that we loved who are gone, those that we loved that made sacrifices, those that we loved who gave everything...
"For others, it maybe a place to grieve and yet, for others, it may be a place to reflect on the kinds of good things we have in our country and to be thankful for that."
Mayor James Ruberto said it had been created to commemorate a past generation but it was still a "testament to the courage" of all current veterans.
Pittsfield was one of many towns and cities in the county celebrating Memorial Day with parades and ceremonies. In addition, it offered the city the opportunity to unveil the refurbished bronze statue created by sculpture Henry Augustus Lukeman in 1926. Lukeman, who also sculpted the statue of President McKinley in Adams, studied under Daniel Chester French and kept a studio in Stockbridge.
The statue was cleaned and its many seams repaired. Missing pieces — laurel leaves, a bayonet and a rifle strap — were re-created by Watertown sculptor David LaRocca, who spent about six months sculpting and fitting the pieces before they were sent to the foundry.
A bronze plaque with the history of the park, statue and Lukeman was added to the installation and unveiled by Lt. Margaret H. Haggerty, 100, of Pittsfield, who's believed to be the oldest veteran in Massachusetts.
Williamstown photos by Paul GuillotteTop, jets over Williamstown; below, the missing man at left, parade Grand Marshal Joseph Como, a Williamstown native.
WWII veteran Samuel Falginiti sits on one of the city's new benches his family purchased in honor of his service. Below, Clifford Smith speaks at the ceremony and Lt. David Sacco presents the Angeli Award to Domineck Tassone.
More North Adams photos here.
Flags were flying during the Cheshire parade. Below, the ceremony at the cemetery; Jessica Baillot reads the Gettysburg Address.
More Cheshire photos here.
|Submit pictures or information on other Berkshire County parades or ceremonies to email@example.com.|
Keynote speaker Judge Rudolph Sacco of Pittsfield noted that the four figures representing the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines "represents no particular hero or company."
"There are tens of thousands who believe that this statue was intended for their son, their brother, their lover," he said, because they could see their loved ones reflected in those generic faces.
Sacco, a Navy veteran who landed on Peleliu just days after the two-month battle ended in 1944, said the saddest sight there was row after row of crosses on the top of a hill.
"In the 48 months we were at war, there were 7,000 dying in combat each month," he said. "[Aging] is taking the remaining veterans to their rewards to the tune of 1,000 per day."
For all veterans and all current servicemen and -women, said Sacco, "We love you, we cherish you and we thank you."
"My hope for you, is you will come back here again at a more quiet time and let the meaningfulness of the statue be what it will be for you," said Johnson. "This is your place, it is our place, it's our 'Wall.'"
In North Adams, residents gathered at Veterans Memorial Park to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom.
One man who has attended many past celebrations in North Adams encountered a much different role during this year's parade and ceremony. Once a spectator, Richard J. Alcombright took part in his first Memorial Day as the mayor.
"For years I've been coming to these Memorial Day parades and ceremonies at Hillside [Cemetery], and I could never get past the ceremony without feeling something very special, very powerful and almost spiritual," he said.
"So many around the world live in fear, live in war. I began to think that freedom for us, at times, is like turning on water. It's just always there. And why it's there, quite simply, is because of the men and women — past and present, living and dead — that we honor here today."
The parade began on American Legion Drive, marched down Main Street and Eagle Street, and closed with a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial.
Clifford Smith, a former national commander of the Sons of the American Legion, gave the keynote speech. He said that veterans of war have a unique way of presenting themselves, which sometimes can be viewed as odd behavior to those who haven't served and to those who are unaware of the horror and death that veterans have witnessed.
"There are some strange people in town," Smith said. "Sometimes they're uncomfortably loud, sometimes they're uncommonly quiet. We don't know much about them. They seem to come from a different time."
"These strange people are right here next to us, and they are not strange at all. They are our veterans; they are our fathers our grandfathers; our grandmothers, our brothers, our sisters; our aunts or uncles; our next-door neighbors or best friends. We must realize that America was born and exists today because of the dreams and the efforts of all veterans of all wars. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude."
As part of Monday's ceremony, Drury High School eighth-grader Domenick Tassone delivered the Gettysburg Address, and he was also presented the annual George Angeli Award by North Adams Police Lt. David Sacco.
Following the ceremony, Alcombright said there are two goals he'd like to accomplish for next year's Memorial Day. He wants 40 to 50 chairs to be placed on the lawn at Veterans Memorial, offering the elderly a place to sit during the ceremony. He’d also like to upgrade the sound system, allowing everyone in attendance to clearly hear the speeches without interference from the traffic on Route 2.
In Cheshire, the annual parade with fire trucks, Shriners and a flock of patriotically decorated bicycles that seems to grow larger each year made its way from the school around the center of town and up to the Cheshire Cemetery.
Jessica Baillot, a student at Hoosac Valley High School, gave the Gettysburg Address and essays were read by Cheshire Elementary School pupils Kyle Cahill, Dylan Martin and Brieanna Lechance.
Kyle, a sixth-grader, and Dylan, a fifth-grader, spoke of what Memorial Day meant to them and how it was celebrated, with Dylan reminding those at the ceremony that it wasn't just an excuse for a party. "Everyone honors people differently and we should respect each other's beliefs," said Kyle. Brieanna, also in sixth grade, said she was considering the joining the military when she got older to protect the nation's liberties.
Selectmen Chairman Paul Astorino was the master of ceremonies; the firing squad was provided by Adams American Legion Post 160.
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