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Bronze statue restored to old haunt on Sarah Osgood's grave

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published 02/26/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 02/27/2013 12:11 AM

Norwich — “There she is, back where she belongs.”

With those words by Mark Gladue, of the Norwich Public Works Department Streets and Parks Division, a three-year effort to restore a majestic 3-foot tall bronze statue of a kneeling woman to the 1881 gravestone of Sarah Larned Osgood was pronounced completed and successful.

Several Public Works employees spent two hours at the Yantic Cemetery Tuesday morning to restore the statue to Osgood’s grave, where it had stood for nearly 130 years.

The statue had been stolen in February 2010 and cut up into five pieces for scrap. Most pieces were recovered days later at Willimantic Waste Co. Workers there had been suspicious from the start and preserved the pieces and information on those who brought them to the scrap yard.

They called police when news hit that the statue had been stolen. The statue’s head was later found on a Willimantic stone wall.

Once all pieces were in hand, city officials launched the restoration effort. Using money from the Cemetery Trust Fund — used for maintenance and cemetery repairs — to pay the $34,000 restoration cost at New England Sculpture Services in Chelsea, Mass.

The fund also was used to replace the spiked metal fence that had once surrounded the Osgood plot, offering more protection to the statue that had been a showpiece in the historic cemetery. The fence had been removed years ago, perhaps for scrap.

City Purchasing Agent William Block and Recreation Department employee Tom Dougherty brought the statue back to Norwich on Friday.

Tuesday’s work crew put the finishing touches on the project. In a paper plate, they mixed a strong white epoxy material they alternately compared to toothpaste and marshmallow Fluff. Franz Redanz II, Public Works Streets and Parks Division foreman, said the material is used to repair damaged gravestones in city cemeteries. He pointed to a concrete urn perched atop a nearby grave, with a narrow base. The epoxy was used to restore that piece with no visible seams.

The restoration crew at the foundry fixed braces and bolt pins beneath the statue to secure it in place.

The rain-stained outline on the grave showed crews exactly where the statue belonged, and the crew slowly slid the 500-pound sculpture into place. They inserted additional bolts at the edges.

“That looks like the original spot,” Redanz said. “You can see the marks.”

With that, Gladue took a handful of colorful stones and glass beads and scattered them atop the gravestone.

“These stones were on here,” he said, “so I’m putting them back.”

The criminal aspect of the case also has been completed.

According to state court records, the three arrested in the case all pleaded guilty to various charges and have been sentenced in Superior Court.

Sean P. McNee of Willimantic pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny on March 16, 2011, and was sentenced to 731 days in prison and four years of probation.

Richard Chamberlain of Lebanon pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2010, to third-degree larceny. He was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended after six months and three years of conditional discharge.

Jodi Despard of Willimantic pleaded guilty on Nov. 4, 2010, to fourth-degree larceny and violation of probation. She was sentenced to one year in prison.

c.bessette@theday.com

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