More care needed for memorials and markers
Just off Montauk Avenue in New London, at the edge of a parking lot for Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, a brick-sized bronze plaque dedicated to Rosa and Rosario Cacciatore sits somewhat forlornly in the grass. The marker is one of several of similar size and shape located in a stretch of greenspace that is bordered on three sides by parking spaces.
It appears likely the small memorials connected to the hospital also all once encompassed trees planted in memory or recognition of those named on the plaques. Now, however, there’s a tree standing near only one. The plaques, no doubt once dedicated with love, sit all but forgotten. At least one is severely crooked, heaved skyward on one end by frost or a tree root.
Such is the fate of so many markers, commemorative plaques and memorials. They are erected carefully and lovingly, and sometimes to great fanfare. Years later, however, too many stand neglected or in disrepair, a state that could be avoided if at the time they are erected more consideration were given to long-term care.
In New London alone, for example, the numerous historic markers along State and Bank streets that were erected in 2006 by New London Main Street with funds from the City Center District and the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, get hardly a notice from passersby, despite the interesting information they provide. A granite memorial in Caulkins Park dedicated to city native Harry K. Daghlian, the brilliant young scientist who died of radiation poisoning and became the first known casualty of a criticality accident, also gets little notice.
This issue also is not confined to New London. There are memorials and markers, brick commemorative pathways and a variety of informational signs throughout the region that are little noticed and the victims of benign neglect. Some are in terrible states of disrepair. Others are surrounded by scruffy patches of grass and overgrown landscaping.
Even as some memorials slide into obscurity, however, more are erected. In 2021, the first 15 sites of New London’s Black Heritage Trail were unveiled, for example. The inspiring and too long-neglected Black history of the city is now told, in part, on a series of handsome metal signs, each with a black background and capped by the sailing ship that is the city’s logo.
More stops on the trail have been added since 2021 and more are planned. It’s an ambitious and worthy project that is currently drawing a good deal of attention from local residents, state officials and tourism promoters and visitors to the Whaling City.
Yet what of the markers in 20 or 30 years? Will they be overlooked? Vandalized? Forgotten?
We certainly hope not as the information they provide is important. Yet, there is plenty of evidence that aging memorials and commemorative markers, whether erected with public money or via private fundraising campaigns, don’t get the respect they deserve.
We urge those who diligently fundraise and carefully design such markers and memorials to also seriously consider long-term upkeep of any plaque, sign or marker that is erected. Funds dedicated to maintenance and long-term care should be earmarked during original fundraising campaigns.
In addition, consideration should be provided and money set aside for continual, long-term marketing of those memorials and commemorative markers aimed at public education so the original intent and information provided remains in the public’s consciousness.
Informational signs and commemorative markers are installed with love and consideration. That consideration should not be abandoned as years pass.
The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.
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