By JOHN GORALSKI
It seemed fitting that the First Company Governor’s Foot Guard presented the colors before marching down the newly renovated stairs for a solemn procession down Marion Avenue.
For those in attendance, it mirrored a similar scene during the Revolutionary War when the foot guard escorted the Compte de Rochambeau to Hartford for a meeting with General George Washington.
On Sunday, Oct. 25, it was a fitting way to begin a tribute to Southington’s revolutionary war memorial in Marion during a re-dedication ceremony for the town’s historical monument to Rochambeau’s troops. After months of tedious restoration and landscaping, town officials, neighbors, and members of Boys Scout Troop 45 gathered on the hill to unveil the fresh-faced monument.
The renovations were the culmination of an Eagle Scout project led by James Brino.
“The 12 points of our Scout Law go perfectly with this project,” Brino said after the ceremony which marked the end of a four-month project to renovate the local memorial. “That’s one of the reasons why you are required to do a project for your Eagle rank. It allows you to broaden your horizons and show the community what you can do.”
This was no ordinary Eagle project. In fact, it entailed professional help from businesses and experts throughout the community. The Rochambeau memorial had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Two marble statues were overcome with mold and mildew, along with a series of stone posts around the perimeter. A large bronze plaque was tarnished and hard to read, and the whole area was overgrown with brush.
“The posts are original to the 1912 memorial,” he said. “That’s technically all that’s left from the 1912 monument, along with the bronze plaque. The entire monument was power washed because there was mold and mildew all over it, and the bronze plaque was waxed.”
Brino first took notice of the memorial as a child, when he spied it out the window of his parents’ car. Inquisitive by nature, Brino returned to investigate.
“I stopped one day, walked up, and thought that it was pretty cool. I started researching a little bit, and when I was looking at doing an Eagle project, I thought this would be an amazing project,” he said. “It would help out the town. It would preserve history, and I’m a big believer in preservation so that future generations will be able to see this monument.”
The project has been in the planning stage since April when Brino first began contacting experts to learn about the specific waxes and non-ionic soaps that were needed to restore an historic monument. Then, he enlisted Matthews Memorials for help with sandblasting and re-caulking the stones
“It was a big project from April through July, and August was the actual execution of the project,” he said. “It was a lot of work.”
At the same time, he enlisted financial assistance through various clubs in town, secured materials through Cheshire Stone and Supply, contacted various organizations to secure donations, and organized a bottle and can drive to raise additional funds.
He secured permits, enlisted helpers, and got to work. In total, Brino invested about 150 hours on the project. For the whole project—from start to finish—it took about 340 hours with parents, volunteers, and Scouts.
Brino said that the neighbors were a big help. Tom Della Bitta’s property borders the memorial, and Brino said that he and his wife were instrumental. They provided water to the workers for drinking and blasting. DellaBitta’s wife maintains the flag pole and secured a French flag to replace the Connecticut banner for the ceremony. Other neighbors pitched in to help with traffic and logistics.
Finally, Superior Rentals supplied a van for shuttling visitors to the site for the re-dedication.
Brino said that it was worth all the effort.
“If someone was going to ask me if I would restore another monument, I would say yes. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I really learned a lot about the monument, about the history of Southington, and the connection that we have with the outside world…The French soldiers came over helped us gain our freedom. If it wasn’t for them, we might not have gained it.”
Click to enlarge