A Decade Later, His Work Still Shows the Way
By Stephen Landry
LEOMINSTER -- The bricks, thousands of them, line several pathways throughout Carter Park.
Each brick is engraved with the name of a local veteran, as selected by friends or family members as part of the city’s Veterans Project 2000, a community-based effort to recognize and pay tribute to all who have served their country in uniform.
As the number of bricks grew, it became more difficult for visitors to locate individual bricks. The only way to find a particular name was to search along the pathways until you managed to locate the veteran you were looking for.
And that’s when 15-year-old Nathaniel Fiedler stepped in with a solution. As a member of Boy Scout Troop 11 of Leominster, Fielder decided to create a brick directory as his Eagle Project.
The directory, which was dedicated on Dec. 30, 2008, allowed visitors to search for individual bricks by the veteran’s first and last name. A quick glance at the index and map allowed friends and family members to quickly determine where along the winding pathways the brick they were looking for was located.
Fielder, who was a freshman at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury when he undertook the project, also helped build a kiosk in the center of the park to display the directory.
Nathaniel’s father, Steve Fielder, was and remains assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 11. He said he remembered the day his son looked at the bricks at Carter Park and decided something needed to be done.
“He thought it was just crazy that it was so difficult to find a particular brick,” Fielder said. “The whole project grew out of a response to that problem, that was the inception of it.”
Nathaniel Fielder was unavailable to comment for this article.
Nathaniel put in over 100 hours of work on the project, according to his father. In addition to developing a computer database to keep track of all of the names of veterans and the location of their respective bricks, Nathaniel also recruited others to assist him in his task, including family members, fellow scouts, and carpenters to help build the kiosk.
“As you can imagine, it was a lot of work,” Steve Fiedler said, adding that the final push to complete the project was an especially difficult time. “We were hanging in there and trying to finish it near the end, in December, and I think (Nathaniel) was just happy to have it completed.”
Fielder said his son may have felt some extra pressure to accomplish the task he had set for himself.
“Both of his older brothers are also Eagle Scouts, so he was the youngest and had a lot to live up to,” Fiedler said.
It made sense that Nathaniel would choose to complete his Eagle Project in Carter Park, as he had shown an early affinity with the park as a child, according to his parents. His mother, Betsy, recalled attending a concert in the park when Nathaniel was about five years old. She said she pointed out Mayor Dean Mazzarella in the crowd and suggested he go over to say hello. When the conversation between mayor and child went on for about 20 minutes, Betsy realized she would have to intervene and “rescue” the mayor.
“Since then, Nathaniel had a deep connection with the park and the community,” Fiedler said.
Mazzarella said he remembered the conversation with young Nathaniel very well, and that he remained appreciative of all of the effort he made in giving back to the park.
“You be surprised at how many people visit that park because they have a relative who has a brick over there, using flashlights to search around,” Mazzarella said. ”(Nathaniel’s directory) has made it a whole lot easier, for myself included.”
Richard Voutour, director of the Leominster Veterans Center, said local veterans and their families were grateful for the hours of effort Fiedler put in cataloguing each brick by name and location for his project.
“He did a fabulous job,” Voutour said. ”(The directory) blends in seamlessly and is very effective. A lot of the veterans have family members that come from somewhere else, so when they come to visit and go to Carter Park looking for a brick, they can find them easily by using that board and directory.”
Fiedler said he was pleased his son had made such a lasting contribution to the community.
“Some Eagle Scout projects will disappear after a couple years, and it was nice at the time, but to see something last such a long time in the community is always a nice remembrance,” Fiedler said.
Voutour said local scouts remained very active when it came to supporting veterans in the community, including maintaining the park and replacing bricks along the pathways when they became too faded to read.
The park, which was donated to the city by Oliver Carter, was originally used as a military training ground and was used by soldiers between the Indian Wars and the War of 1812.