WATERVILLE — Whitcomb Rummel Jr. and his family are anxious to witness the rededication of Thayer Memorial Bridge Saturday in honor of his grandfather, former Mayor Lorenzo Eugene Thayer.

Rummel, 68, of Chapel Hill, N.C., never knew his grandfather, who died Sept. 3, 1934, at 51, but he is very much aware of the story about the discovery this year of a plaque bearing Thayer’s name that once graced the bridge over Messalonskee Stream on Gilman Street.

The 2-by-3-foot bronze plaque was fastened to the bridge after Thayer’s death, but disappeared sometime in the 1960s or ’70s. It was not seen again until Benton contractor Jim Goodwin returned it to the city this spring.

Public Works Director Mark Turner researched the plaque’s history, discovered it once was attached to the Gilman Street Bridge and led the charge to have it returned to that bridge.

The rededication is 11 a.m. Saturday, and Rummel and his family, as well as the public, are invited to attend.

“We’re so looking forward to it,” said Rummel, a screenwriter who grew up in Waterville. “It’s a way of keeping the family alive — that’s great.”

Rummel’s mother, Ann, was Thayer’s daughter. She died in 2008 at 94. She and her husband, Whitcomb Rummel Sr., owned Rummel’s Ice Cream on Silver Street, now the site of Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream. The family, which also owned the Silent Woman Restaurant, lived in the house on the Silver Street property.

“My mother would be so proud, because she just adored her father, Gene, and I think that was the worst day of her life when he died,” Rummel said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his Chapel Hill home. “She talked about him all the time. I know it would mean a lot to my mother.”

Rummel’s wife, Christen, will attend the ceremony, as will their son, also Whitcomb Rummel, of Atlanta, and his girlfriend, Allison Stansel. Thayer’s great nephew, Henry Dillenbeck, of Winslow, also will attend.

Dillenbeck recalled recently that he was about 5 when he was at a picnic at the family’s camp in Belgrade in 1934 and the phone rang with news that Thayer had died. Thayer had been admitted to the hospital two months prior for treatment of Bright’s Disease, a kidney condition, and died after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

Turner, Mayor Nick Isgro, City Manager Michael Roy, City Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and other city officials plan to attend the ceremony, which will be short but meaningful, according to Turner.

“I am putting together the display table — we have some photographs of the old bridge and the former town report cover from 1935 — just some things I framed up, some little memorabilia,” Turner said. “We’ve reproduced a photo of the mayor from the honor wall of mayors at City Hall. The plaque will be on display.”

He said the actual installation of the plaque on the bridge will take place the following week.

The ceremony, which will include short speeches, will be held on the Riverside Drive side of the bridge on a grassy area, according to Turner.

“It isn’t going to be anything fancy, but it’ll be nice,” he said. “Any residents who want to attend, that have an interest in this or wants to be part of this, they’re certainly welcome, and the more the better. It’s a great tribute to, I think, a person that is historically probably one of the more prominent and important citizens Waterville has ever had in his service to the community.”

Roy also emphasized that everyone is invited to attend the celebration.

“It’ll be a short ceremony to recognize someone that I think was largely forgotten — a very important figure in Waterville’s history,” Roy said. “It’s a very good opportunity for us to recognize the contributions of Mayor Thayer.”

Stubbert said he thinks several councilors also will attend the ceremony to honor Thayer and rededicate the plaque, whose mystery, he noted, is not fully solved.

“I’m not sure we know all of the story yet — why the plaque was removed from the bridge in the first place,” Stubbert said. “This really is a good thing because it originally was a tribute to Mayor Thayer and that should be a permanent thing.”

Whitcomb Rummel Jr.’s brother, Merrill, died in May at 71, but not before his wife, Evelyn, was able to read aloud to him the Morning Sentinel stories about the rediscovery of the Thayer plaque and the planned celebration to return it to the bridge.

Rummel said Merrill loved history, particularly anything having to do with Waterville and the Thayer family, and smiled as his wife read the stories to him. He died about three hours later.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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