ROME — Fenway Park groundskeepers put the Travis Mills Foundation’s logo in place Tuesday on the lawn of the former Elizabeth Arden estate in Rome and Mount Vernon as part of groundbreaking ceremonies for a planned retreat for wounded veterans.

When it’s complete, Mills said, the estate will be a new retreat where combat-wounded disabled veterans can spend time with each other and their families.

“We’ll bring (veterans’) kids up and they’ll be able to do things with their parents, and go boating and go fishing and do things together,” Mills said. “And that helps us not live life on the sidelines. That’s my big thing, to not live life on the sidelines. I don’t want to just watch my family enjoy things; I want to be a part of it.”

Mills, of Manchester, a retired Army staff sergeant, lost portions of both his arms and legs from an improvised explosive device while on active duty in Afghanistan. The foundation that bears his name recently bought the former estate of cosmetics maven Elizabeth Arden, featuring the stately but time-worn Maine Chance Lodge, where the foundation plans to create a retreat and grounds that are fully accessible to combat-wounded disabled veterans.

Fundraising efforts for the project are underway, with $300,000 raised so far toward the estimated $2.2 million it’ll take to renovate and restore the 1929 lodge overlooking Long Pond.

The head Boston Red Sox groundskeeper, David Mellor, who literally wrote the book on artfully mowing lawns, and a crew of six groundskeepers who were able to come because the Red Sox were playing out of town, made sure the old estate’s lawn was ready.


The crew arrived well before the groundbreaking ceremony began, setting down a huge plastic stencil made by Mississippi-based World Class Athletic Surfaces, which covered a 37-by-40-foot section of lawn that Craig Buck, Mills’ father-in-law, had mowed earlier, following Mellor’s instructions.

Using the stencil as a guide, the crew members, who volunteered their time, placed flags to mark the logo’s outline and, after removing the plastic and soaking some sections with water from a hose, used a riding lawnmower, brooms and custom-made, hand-held rollers to shape the grass into the form of the Travis Mills Foundation’s logo.

Mellor said it was an honor to install the logo for the future veterans’ retreat. The crew left the stencil with the foundation so workers and volunteers there can maintain and repeat the logo installation.

Buck said he and Mills attended a Red Sox game in September and Mellor took them onto the field. Buck asked about the Sox logo, two detailed large socks in the infield grass, and after they talked for a bit, he mentioned he’d love to be able to put the Mills Foundation logo on the lawn of their planned new retreat.

After their encounter, Buck read Mellor’s book on the subject, “Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes and Sports,” and planned to try to put the logo on the lawn himself.

Mellor had other ideas.


“I was just going to try to do it myself, but Dave said, ‘Wait ’til the team is out of town, and I’ll bring the crew up and do it,'” Buck said.

Mellor said potential designs on lawns are limited only by people’s imaginations.

Crew members volunteering their time included Seth Miller, who is in his first year as a Fenway groundskeeper and is from Manchester, where his home is only about 100 feet through the woods from the home Mills shares with his wife, Kelsey, and their young daughter, Chloe.

“Dave mentioned (the crew) was going to be doing some work for a veteran, so I asked who, and he said Travis Mills,” Miller said after holding the hose while Mellor precisely pointed its nozzle at specific areas of the lawn to form the logo. “I said, ‘He’s my neighbor.’ This seemed like a good opportunity to help out.”

The crew presented two Red Sox stadium seats, one with the No. 5, which Mills said was his number when he played football, basketball and baseball, for “veterans and their families to enjoy as they sit and look at the lake,” Mellor said.

Maine’s first lady, Ann LePage, on Tuesday addressed a large crowd that included other disabled veterans at the groundbreaking ceremony.


“I’m so humbled to be a small part of this project,” she said. “I truly believe when this is completed, this will be Maine’s gift to the nation.”

Christine Toriello, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, said work on the project will start Wednesday and is expected to take about two years.

Mills, whose motto is “Never give up; never quit,” said amputees don’t have many chances to talk about their experiences with other amputees, and when they do, they often open up to each other, as he said he did with fellow disabled veterans at a recent event in Tennessee. He hopes the fully accessible retreat at the old estate will provide a place for veterans and their families to come together in recovery, camaraderie, support and relaxation.

While walking over to join LePage, Mills and others toting gold-painted shovels to ceremoniously shovel some dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony said, “If I fall, let me fall. I’ll get myself back up eventually.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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