NAUGATUCK — A project three years in the making finally got underway last week. Work started on restoring the World War I monument on Meadow Street next to Salem School in downtown Naugatuck.
“I’m starting to breath again,” Vietnam veteran and member of American Legion Post 17 Ron Fischer said.
Three years ago, Fischer spearheaded a fundraising campaign to raise $40,000 to repair damage to the long-neglected monument.
“When I first heard the estimate, I thought that was insurmountable,” Fischer said.
But with the help of the town, civic organizations including the Naugatuck American Legion Post 17, the Beacon Valley Grange and the Naugatuck Veterans Council, and private citizens, Fischer’s monument fund committee managed to come up with the funds.
The borough also contributed $25,000 to the project from its reserve funds.
Donors from as far away as Canada, Tennessee, and Florida sent checks to help pay for the project, Fischer said.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of support we had for this project,” he said.
Fischer said most of the donors from out-of-state had relatives from Naugatuck who fought in World War I.
The limestone pedestal and flagpole was designed in 1921 by Evelyn Beatrice Longman, who also worked on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It features the names of 30 local servicemen who died in World War I. The Whittemore family, which also built the town library, originally paid for the monument.
“This monument in particular has so much value historically,” Fischer said.
Hamden-based ConservArt is undertaking the repairs. The company specializes in restoring historical monuments.
“They’re the ultimate experts,” Fischer said.
Fischer said the company will return the monument as close to its original condition as possible. Other companies the committee considered would have simply given the monument a facelift. Even though that route would have been cheaper, the committee decided to go all the way.
“If we’re not going to go back to original, there’s not sense doing it,” Fischer said.
A 23-page estimate for the work details repairs including redoing the finish on the rosette at the base of the flagpole, fixing cracks, replacing a piece that was broken off, removing discoloration, and replacing river stone around the base.
Once the monument is fixed up, the committee plans to establish an account for the monument’s maintenance so it won’t descend back into state of disrepair it’s in now, according to Fischer.
In addition to the work being done by ConservArt, Naugatuck resident James Daz refinished the broken benches around the monument as his Eagle Scout project.
Fischer said the completion date is dependent on the results of testing the monument is undergoing now, but he hopes to repairs will be finished by Veteran’s Day. He said he hopes to have a rededication ceremony during Veterans Day commemorations in which the monument if usually a focal point.
“Naugatuck is an extremely patriotic town and I think this would be another factor for the pride of the town,” Fischer said.