Lowell Doughboy Will Remain at His Post
LOWELL -- The Lowell Firefighters Association vowed from the start that if family members and community groups opposed relocating the Doughboy Statue, they would drop the proposal.
In the wake of the overwhelming message from the Lowell Historical Society -- voting against the plan to move the Acre statue honoring 36 men who gave their lives during World War I -- the firefighters group will no longer push to move the Doughboy Statue.
Recently, the Lowell Firefighters Association proposed moving it to the North Common, and in its place constructing a Sept. 11 memorial monument in front of their club.
The association will now head back to the drawing board, looking for a suitable location for a Sept. 11 memorial.
“There was only positive feedback in the first year, with the Acre group in favor of it,” Bill Desrosiers, board member of the association and former Lowell fire chief, said Friday. “There wasn’t opposition initially.
“It’s a shame we won’t do it there,” he added.
The historical society added to the rising groundswell of support to keep the monument where it has sat for nearly 100 years.
“People feel strongly that it should stay where it is,” Lowell Historical Society President Eileen Loucraft said recently. “It’s an important part of the neighborhood, and it’s not meant to be moved around.”
The historical society at a recent board meeting voted unanimously to express its opposition to moving the statue from the intersection of Fletcher and Willie streets.
In a letter to Mayor Bill Samaras and City Manager Eileen Donoghue, Loucraft detailed the history of the monument -- dedicated in 1923 by Acre residents. Thousands of Lowellians attended the unveiling of the statue.
Major Edward L. Logan, Mayor John J. Donovan and Congressman John Jacob Rogers spoke at the statue dedication.
Rogers said it best, the historical society president wrote: “Let this statue be always a beacon star which will help you to strive onward that the lives of those it honors may not have died in vain.”
“We implore you to leave this monument right where it has been for almost a hundred years,” she added in the letter. “It is part of the neighborhood.”
The historical society’s vote came as Barry Connolly, the great nephew of Acre hero Pvt. John Leo Connolly, hammered the proposal to move the statue. His great uncle’s name is one of the 36 etched on the Doughboy Statue in Connolly Square, which is named after him.
The Lowell Firefighters Association said they received support from veterans groups and the Acre Neighborhood Group to relocate it.
But they didn’t have the support of the historical society.
“It’s not respecting the monument,” Loucraft said. “To move it for another memorial just doesn’t make sense. Would they move the 9/11 memorial in 100 years too?”
Desrosiers had stressed that they would relocate the World War I statue to a spot with better visibility along Fletcher Street at North Common, where people could sit down at benches and read the names of those who died.
He said he was “disappointed” the historical society took that vote without getting both sides of the issue.
“We would have explained the entire proposal to them,” Desrosiers said.
Moving forward, he said they will raise money to erect a Sept. 11 monument elsewhere.
“This will take a couple of years of fundraising,” Desrosiers said. “There will be a lot involved.”
The Sept. 11 monument would be paid by the firefighters, not the city.
Considering the Doughboy Statue is on city property and the new location in North Common is also city property, the firefighters association had approached city officials about the issue. The proposal was recently referred the City Council Parks Subcommittee.
City Councilor Rita Mercier leads the subcommittee, and made the motion for the proposal on the association’s behalf.
“It’s certainly started a lot of discussion about how things should be left the way they are,” Mercier said.
“I’m only the messenger, bringing forward the motion for discussion, and we got plenty of that,” she added.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.