By Seth Daniel
Having something in common with Everett came in quite handy for the Town of Wakefield recently when they were able to work with the City to restore two Spanish American War plaques on their monument courtesy of Everett’s identical monument.
Only about 50 of these monuments, which were created at the turn of the 20th Century by a Minnesota woman, were made, but as it happens, a number of them came to municipalities in Middlesex County.
Among them were Everett and Wakefield.
However, Wakefield’s ‘Hiker’ monument was missing its bronze plaques, and virtually no one could figure out a way to get them replaced.
“We have the Hiker Monument permanently on display in front of our Post Office in Wakefield, and it’s the exact same memorial as Everett has,” said John Leone, who is a member of the Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association (WCNA) in Wakefield that cares for the war monument area known as the Rockery. “No one knows what happened to the two plaques that were on our Hiker Statue. They might have been loose and fell. They might be stored away in a City garage somewhere and cannot be located. Or, they might have been taken and melted down for scrap. It’s been missing for a very, very long time and it bugged me to have that empty space there. It wasn’t complete.”
After Leone and his association embarked on a project to cast two new bronze markers, they began working with Skylight Studios in Woburn to forge and affix the new markers.
The only trouble was they needed an exact copy of what the original markers were like. Working from pictures was possible, but an even better solution was to find an existing marker somewhere and make a perfect casting mold.
“There are a lot of those statues in Middlesex and Essex Counties,” said Leone. “Everett has one and what interested us about the one in Everett was it stood out for the base and was better than any other for mold making. We requested to make the mold there and Mayor DeMaria agreed to it.”
City Planner Tony Sousa and City Clerk Michael Mattarazzo accommodated the crew from last Tuesday, April 11. Skylight artisans Nick Batzell and Luciano Caruso created a silicon mold from Everett’s statue, and will use that to cast two new bronze plaques for the Wakefield statue.
They applied a water-based reversible mold release. The mold material is silicon rubber and it was applied in several coats along with a release agent. When the mold was completed the release agent was rinsed off with water. Once the rubber was dry, they applied a plaster backing that is used to keep the rubber in the correct shape. The process took the entire day. The process was noninvasive and did not change the appearance of the bronze.
Leone said he hopes that they can get them on and affixed by Memorial Day this year.
“Everett’s City Clerk, Michael Matarazzo, and Planning Director Tony Sousa stopped by the site to introduce themselves and to watch some of the activity,” said Leone. “Wakefield’s Town Manager, Stephen Maio, and the WCNA appreciate the cooperation that Everett’s Mayor Carlo DeMaria and his staff have provided in support of this project.”
“The mold making is a noninvasive process that does not change the appearance of the bronze in Everett,” said Robert Shure, Skylight Studios founder and sculptor.
Added Sousa, “The City Clerk and I visited the site while the crew was at work and we are pleased Everett is playing a special part in a very special restoration project.”
The Hiker Statue was conceived in the early 1900s by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson to commemorate the soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Philippine-American War. Since Kitson was from Minnesota, the first ‘Hiker’ statue was placed on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Only about 50 others were made and placed, but a large portion of them are in Middlesex and Essex Counties, Massachusetts.
The ‘Hiker’ depicts a war hero stripped of his parade uniform and shown as a soldier reacting to the challenges of the battlefield.
Others in the area are in Lynn, Fitchburg, Medford, Waltham and Haverhill – to name a few.