Relighted Mount Tom star signals hope amid crisis

  • The star at the top of Mount Tom is being lit up as a beacon of hope and comfort during the coronavirus pandemic. Contributed photo

  • Myles Scribner, 9, helped to light the holiday star atop Mount Tom on Thursday. The star was lit to bring joy during the coronavirus pandemic. Contributed photo

  • Pat Brough, left, Police Chief Bob Alberti, Paul Nowak and Police Sgt. Dennis Scribner gather Thursday at the summit of Mount Tom to relight the holiday star as a symbol of hope amid the coronavirus pandemic. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2020 1:24:26 PM

EASTHAMPTON — For more than four decades, a star shining over the city from Mount Tom has been a holiday tradition. Now, as residents deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the star is again lighting up the night in a gesture meant to spark and support hope and positivity in the community.

“What better symbol to do it than the relighting of the star?” asked Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti.

Alberti is part of a core group of four people involved in lighting and maintaining the star over the past several years. The others are Patrick Brough, police Sgt. Dennis Scribner and Paul Nowak.

“Every November we make the trek up the mountain,” Alberti said.

 The star is turned off in January, and the light bulbs are taken back down the mountain. However, last week, with people turning on holiday lights to brighten moods during the coronavirus pandemic, Brough suggested relighting the star.

“It always makes people happy when they see that light turn,” Brough said.

The four went to the top of Mount Tom on Thursday afternoon, and set the lighting up in foggy weather.

“It was kind of eerie, actually,” Brough said.

Joining them for the first time was Scribner’s 9-year-old son, Myles.

“He was beside himself to be up there and involved in that,” Scribner said. “He helped screw in some of the light bulbs too, which was cool.”

It was also Myles’ first time up the mountain.

“He had a blast,” Scribner said.

Getting the star ready to light went off without a hitch. “We’re kind of like a well-oiled machine,” Brough said.

However, on the way back down the mountain, Brough said, they were approached by two Holyoke Police officers and had to explain what they were doing. Brough said Chief Alberti helped the officers understand why they were there.

The star lights up every evening at 6:30 p.m. via a timer, and then shuts off in the middle of the night. Alberti likened the fog lifting so the star could be visible on Thursday to the parting of theater curtains.

“Of course the community went wild,” he said.

Text messages, Facebook messages and calls have all come in sharing appreciation for the star being back, Brough said. A lot more people are thinking about the health and welfare of others in this time, he said, and the star is a reminder of this.

Among the company of star keepers, Nowak has been working with the symbol the longest — about 20 years, he figures. He recalls replacing the former incandescent bulbs when they burned out, even trekking through snowstorms to do so. That problem was mostly eliminated when they switched to LED bulbs.

“(It’s) really kind of magical in a way what it does for folks,” Nowak said.

Nowak noted that his father loved the star, and would always ask to see it when they would drive around together. Both Nowak’s father and mother died last year, and two of the bulbs at the top of the star have their names written on them.

As for when the star will be deactivated again, Alberti said the plan is to keep it up until the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“We hope that we unplug the star sooner rather than later for that very reason,” he said.

That said, it’s possible it could stay lit regardless, Brough said — left up to help people get through 2020.

“I think we’ll leave it up for a while,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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