Easthampton bank honors ex-planner with ‘Stuart Bear’
Stuart Beckley, center, who resigned his post recently as city planner in Easthampton for a job as town manager in Ware, chats with Wendy Hammerle, a member of the Manham Rail Trail Committee, during a farewell party for him Thursday at 50 Payson Avenue in Easthampton. Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Former city planner Stuart Beckley left to take a job as town manager in Ware in February, but a fiberglass cub bearing his name sits in the Easthampton Municipal Building as a reminder of his 22 years of service.
Easthampton Savings Bank won “Stuart Bear,” a cub-sized bear statue named after of Beckley, with a $1,000 bid at the auction that concluded Bear Fest 2012.
The bank donated “Stuart Bear” to the city to be displayed in the Municipal Building.
“Reflecting on Stuart’s many years of service to all of us in Easthampton, it only seems fitting that the bear created in his honor should find its home in the place that he called home for so many years,” wrote bank President William S. Hogan Jr. in a letter to Mayor Michael A. Tautznik.
Bear Fest was an art exhibit of bears decorated by local artists that sat on city sidewalks and in area storefronts throughout the summer. At the Sept. 20 culmination of Bear Fest, bidders at the auction took home the 92 bears and raised over $50,000 for the artists, arts education, and Easthampton City Arts Plus, the city committee that put on the event.
The highest bid was $4,150 for “Luminous Bear,” a full-sized bear covered in tiny mirrors, created by Crystal Popko.
Though Beckley left his position in the city in February, he continued to volunteer to help put on Bear Fest, Tautznik said, from painting the paw prints on the sidewalks to co-authoring a story about a bear cub’s adventures in Easthampton for the June 23 Bear Fest Storywalk.
“Stuart Bear,” created by Feeding Hills artist Sarah Plantanitis, is a brown cub wearing a shirt, vest, jeans and sneakers. He is now located in the hallway outside the City Clerk’s office on the first floor of the Municipal Building at 50 Payson Ave.
“I think it was very nice for the bank to provide us with a bear created in honor of Stuart. He did a wonderful job while he was here,” Tautznik said Thursday, the day after the City Council voted to accept the gift. He said Beckley was an integral part of the arts and cultural renaissance that has improved Easthampton for the last decade.
“It’s humbling and flattering and very much appreciated,” Beckley said of the news when reached at the Ware Town Hall Thursday. “Bear Fest was great. As with the first year, it was fantastic to see so many people walking the sidewalks.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.