DERBY — The memories flowed back Tuesday evening.
Jack Walsh remembered walking to the monument with his Derby High School freshman class for a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Civil War.
“Someone said to me it’s so much bigger now,” said Walsh, a Derby historian. “I told him that’s because the cannon are on a base, pointing upward, they’re not sinking into the ground.”
John Anglace remembered crawling on the barrels of those cannons, pretending to fire them with Bob Skoronski, who later captained Vince Lombardi’s championship Green Bay Packer teams.
“It’s beautiful,” said Anglace, the longtime president of Shelton’s Board of Aldermen. “I grew up in Derby. It was an honor to be part of this.”
On Tuesday night, a brief ceremony attended by about 75 people marked the completed restoration of the Civil War monument, with its weary Union Soldier leaning against his long-barreled rifle. Bronze plaques containing the names of 82 Derby and Huntington Union soldiers killed in the war were re-dedicated.
The monument base was surrounded by four cannons or parrot rifles which were used in the war.
Among those present for the ceremony were Mayor Richard Dziekan, former Mayor Mark Garofalo, State Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia and David Stemerman, a Republican gubernatorial candidate. Public Works Director Ed Armeno, whose office saved on restoration expenses by donating equipment, space and work, was also there.
Gone was the black and greenish corrosion caused by 140 years of rain acidified by the Valley’s factories. The cannons refinished and repainted are now angled upward. The display will soon be lighted from all angles at night and a surveillance camera will run 24/7 to catch any vandals.
It was vandalism — the use of a crowbar attempting to pry away one of the bronze plaques, that caught Jamie Cohen’s attention.
“To try to steal a plaque containing the names of people who died giving their lives to this country was outrageous,” said Cohen, a retired Derby lawyer, corporation counsel and Valley Community Foundation president. “The only thing lower is the person who would pay them. I saw red.”
But Cohen needed green — about $75,000 — to hire Francis Miller and Conserve ART in Hamden to repair and restore the monument.
Anglace’s Shelton board and Derby’s Board of Aldermen both contributed $12,500. The Valley Community Foundation kicked in $15,000 and Cohen was on his way.
“We got donations from all over the state,” Cohen said. “They came from the Valley, the Civil War and Revolutionary groups and people from all over the state.”
Two years later, Cohen wants to expand his restoration fund to include preservation.
“I don’t ever want to see this fall into the state it was in,” he said. “We probably need about $1,500 a year for its upkeep.”
And Cohen had another wish for the monument.
“I hope people bring their children and grandchildren to welcome it home,” he said. “I ask they please read the names of those who gave their lives to preserve the union.”