WATERVILLE — Whitcomb Rummel Jr., the grandson of former Mayor Lorenzo Eugene Thayer, and his family were greeted with hugs, handshakes and warm wishes Saturday morning in a ceremony re-dedicating the Thayer Memorial Bridge and unveiling a long-lost bronze plaque bearing Thayer’s name that was recently restored by city officials.

Rummel, his wife, their son and his girlfriend traveled from North Carolina and Atlanta, Ga., for the ceremony, which drew about 40 people to the Gilman Street bridge over the Messalonskee Stream.

“This is such a great, wonderful feeling to be here talking to you folks,” said Rummel, of Chapel Hill, N.C., in remarks to the crowd. “I want to thank the Waterville community on behalf of my family and my ancestors. My mother would be so happy. A lot of people know how much she loved Waterville and how connected she felt to this town. I was blessed to inherit that connection, and I still feel like Waterville is my hometown.”

Rummel, 68, grew up in Waterville. His grandfather served as the city’s 28th mayor after winning election in 1933 and being re-elected in 1934 with the largest majority in city history, according to Morning Sentinel archives. He headed relief efforts during the Great Depression and was the city’s only mayor to die in office after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Sept. 3, 1934.

The Thayer Memorial Bridge was dedicated to Thayer that year, but the bronze plaque bearing his name was missing for decades before a Benton business owner discovered it while demolishing an old house. Jim Goodwin delivered the plaque to city hall in March. He said the plaque had been sitting in his garage for about 10 years, and he didn’t remember the exact location where it was found.

Over the last several months, city officials have worked to restore the plaque and track down Thayer’s family.

“My maintenance department took it upon themselves to have this cleaned up,” said Public Works Director Mark Turner, gesturing to the cleaned-up plaque and before-and-after pictures that were on display Saturday. “It was quite messy and oxidized and stained. They really did a good job restoring it.”

One city employee took the plaque home and applied a solvent and protective coating on the plaque, he said. The actual installation of the plaque is scheduled to take place sometime this week. “Hopefully it will live into eternity in good condition,” Turner said. “It should stay quite a few years.”

City Manager Mike Roy read a statement that city councilors, at the time known as the Board of Aldermen, read when the bridge was originally dedicated to Thayer 80 years ago on Sept. 5, 1934.

“When entering office at the time of the closing of the banks, he was tasked with re-establishing the credit of the city, no small task,” Roy read. “It was no small task, but because of his patience and knowledge of business, he succeeded. He inspired faith and confidence in those with whom he dealt that the city of Waterville would, with time, pull through the Depression.”

In addition to his role as mayor, Thayer was a Waterville native and graduate of Colby College. He was one of the founders of the Morning Sentinel in 1904 and served as its business manager. He also headed the local Federal Relief Administration, a service for the needy and poor, and was a director at People’s National Bank.

His daughter Ann, Whitcomb Rummel Jr.’s mother, owned the former Rummel’s Ice Cream on Silver Street and the Silent Woman Restaurant with her husband, Whitcomb Rummel Sr.

Ann Rummel died in 2008 at the age of 94, but the family frequently visits Waterville, said Christen Rummel, Whitcomb Rummel Jr.’s wife.

“It’s great,” she said. “It’s nice to know that the family is still remembered in Waterville.”

Henry Dillenbeck, of Winslow, Thayer’s great nephew, also said the re-dedication was a great gesture for the family. Now 86 years old, Dillenbeck said Thayer’s death had a profound impact on him as a child.

“I don’t have many memories from when I was five or six, but it’s one of the things I remember most,” he said. “The thing I remember is the effect on my family. When the news came over the telephone that Eugene had died, everyone just went dead silent. Everyone liked and respected him.”

Saturday’s ceremony also drew several city and local officials, including current mayor Nick Isgro, city councilors and others.

“Having a piece of history come back like this is just amazing,” said Cathy Nadeau, D- Winslow, a state legislator. “We should have more pieces of history come back. The city of Waterville did a really good job with making it happen.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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