Overgrown memorial gets a brush-up from Veterans’ Services director

  • The Northampton Remembers memorial, following landscaping done on Tuesday by Central Hampshire Veterans' Services Director Steven Connor. Submitted Photo—Submitted Photo

  • Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services Director Steven Connor landscapes the Northampton Remembers memorial on Tuesday. Submitted Photo

  • Central Hampshire Veterans' Services Director Steven Connor landscapes the Northampton Remembers memorial on Tuesday. Submitted Photo—Submitted Photo

Published: 8/1/2018 12:25:59 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When local veterans saw that the Northampton Remembers war memorial outside of Memorial Hall was surrounded by weeds, they were upset.

Yet on Tuesday, the landscaping around the memorial was restored by none other than Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services Director Steven Connor.

“It needed to get done,” said Connor.

The memorial has the names of everybody from Northampton killed in action from the Spanish American War onward.

David Boyle and John Kelly, both Vietnam veterans who grew up in Northampton, said they noticed the weeds about two weeks ago. They then went to Veterans’ Services, but Connor was on vacation and they were told that maintaining the memorial was not the purview of Veterans’ Services. They then went to the mayor’s office, but the mayor was also on vacation and they were told the problem would be looked into.

“They were all nice people,” said Boyle, who serves as President/CEO of Friends of Ward 8, a veterans support nonprofit.

Boyle also said that he bumped into Connor at the World War II Club, and told him about the problem. Connor said that if it wasn’t solved, he would take care of it.

“I kind of thought in my head, ‘Well, we’ll see,’” said Boyle.

Boyle said he and Kelly went down for several days and didn’t see the weeds taken care of. However on Tuesday, having determined that they would go to the press about the issue, they came upon Connor doing the weeding himself.

“Steve was down on his hands and knees,” said Boyle, who said that he proceeded to thank Connor.

“He’s doing an extremely great job,” he continued, of Connor’s landscaping.

Boyle and Kelly said they are speaking out in the hope that the weed situation will never happen again.

“Somebody’s got to keep doing it,” said Kelly.

Connor said that responsibility for who takes care of the memorial isn’t clearly delineated.

He said that when he saw the memorial this morning, after attending a memorial service for Gordon Fletcher-Howell the night before, he decided to put in the effort himself to clean it up.

Connor also said he didn’t think much about memorials when he started doing the job, but that he understood their power when he saw the effect that a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall had on people he knew growing up when it came to the Big E. Some of them walked away with tears in their eyes.

Connor said he will look to get Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School to design new landscaping for the memorial, and to maintain it.

“They’ll be checking in on it,” he said.

Smith Vocational did a similar project with a war memorial in Florence, where they have been keeping up the maintenance

Connor is also running as a write-in candidate for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District in the Massachusetts state Senate, although he said that this maintenance was not a part of the campaign.

“It wasn’t for the campaign at all,” he said, even blaming his campaign activities for the overgrowth. “I let it get like that.”

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

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