“Bring your children. Bring your grandchildren. Read the names.”
Those were the words of James Cohen Tuesday evening on the Derby Green, where he and Mayor Rich Dziekan showed off a restored Civil War Monument.
The monument, standing 21 feet tall on the north side of the green, contains the names of the 82 men from Derby and Shelton who died during the Civil War.
Its base was dedicated in 1877. The fully realized monument, with a bronze soldier atop the base, was officially unveiled July 4, 1883.
But over the years, in addition to Mother Nature wearing it down, vandals had their way with the monument. Pieces were missing. Chunks of the base had been smashed away. Its cannons sunk into the ground.
Thieves attempted to pry off the plaques during a plague of similar crimes in 2011.
Cohen, a Derby native and former CEO of The Valley Community Foundation, noticed the damage to the Derby-Shelton Civil War Monument about three years ago while walking in the Derby Green with Boy Scout leader Randy Ritter.
Instead of just bemoaning its condition and shaking his fist — Cohen decided to rally the Valley.
A fund was set up at The Valley Community Foundation to accept donations. Derby and Shelton governments contributed money. Groups across the state dedicated to preserving history stepped up to help.
The result — a fully restored monument that pretty much looks like it did in 1883. The project was in the neighborhood of $75,000.
Compare and contrast the 2016 and 2018 photographs below.
It’s rebirth was handled by Francis Miller of Conserve ART of Hamden. Miller and his company specialize in preserving “art, architecture, artifacts, and historic cemeteries throughout Connecticut and the United States,” according to the Conserve ART website.
Cohen, Mayor Rich Dziekan, and state Sen. George Logan made brief remarks Tuesday.
Each urged residents to use the monument as an education tool — to show the monument to young people and to not forget the sacrifices of the men who died for the freedom we enjoy today.
“It deserves our respect,” Cohen said.
The article continues after the photos.
It’s also up to the community to prevent vandals from damaging the monument again.
To that end, the city will be erecting lights and security cameras will be placed in the area to keep watch.
The restoration fund still exists within The Valley Community Foundation. There was also talk Tuesday of using donations from there to contribute to the monument’s ongoing maintenance.