PITTSTON — For years, the town’s World War II memorial sat at the corner of Pittston School Street and Whitefield Road, flanked by shrubs and a flagpole.

It was in clear view of traffic headed either to the Pittston Town Office or the town’s elementary school from the west, but a second glance would show that it was indisputably situated in a corner of a private yard.

“It was in an awkward place,” Cathy Thomas said.

Thomas was not the only one to think so. For months, town officials and residents have been talking about the need to relocate the memorial to a more suitable location.

While it has been at a visible intersection, there was no designated nearby parking, and traffic on two roads has been increasing and it was not accessible to people with handicaps.

It is in an awkward place no more.

Duane Tobey with the recently relocated war memorial Thursday at the Riverside Cemetery annex in Pittston. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

On Oct. 14, the 1,200 pound granite monument was moved to a prepared slab at the Riverside Cemetery annex on Route 27, where it now stands in a site that anyone can visit.

“Now, we are handicapped and wheelchair accessible,” Duane Tobey said. “They can drive right up, and do what they want to do. We have a bench down there, which was donated, so people can set there and just look. We put power in so the flag is always lit. And we put a parking lot down the side.”

Tobey is one of the directors of the Riverside Cemetery Association, which had agreed to set aside property at its annex for the memorial. Currently, the cemetery and the annex are owned by the association, but when the members pass on, the Riverside Cemetery and the annex will eventually pass to the town of Pittston.

In March, town residents agreed to spend $6,000 to relocate the memorial; where it would go was up to the Board of Selectmen, and Tobey said the elected officials chose the cemetery annex.

Tobey said he had secured a bid from Jewett Builders, Thomas’s family company, before the town meeting. Thomas said her family agreed to donate half the cost  for the move because the monument carries the name of Greg Elliot, a family friend.

Thomas said they worked to prepare the site as they had time. To shift it from one place to the other required cribbing to be built around the monument so it could be lifted, Thomas said. It was, she said, an uneventful transport.

“It was light compared to the stuff we usually move,” she said. Jewett Builders does sill replacements and foundation repairs, but it also jacks and moves entire buildings.

Jewett Builders was just one of the organizations and groups of people who made donations to make the project possible.

The final cost to the town was about $5,900.

The monument move opens up a number of possibilities.

Tobey said he has found names that belong on the memorial that have not yet been added. Now that the monument is accessible on both sides, the six can be added to the 85 on the front.

“The way we designed it, we can probably put 100 years of future monuments there,” Tobey said.

There is space to add four monuments at the corners of the existing monument, and the slab is large enough to add another honoring the work of the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who have lived in Pittston for at least two years. Whether that happens will depend on donations.

“I lived beside one of the men all my life whose name was on there, and I never knew he was on there,” Tobey said, adding that he never served in the military.

“We wouldn’t have what we have today if not for these people,” he said.

Pittston Selectwoman Jane Hubert said town residents started raising town money for monument at the February 1945 Town Meeting, three months before war in Europe ended. That first year, voters authorized $50 to be set aside for that purpose and in subsequent years, they set aside $30 annually, as reported in the town’s Annual Reports.

The current stone monument replaced a wooden monument that had been erected at the corner of Whitefield Road and School Street.

“The wooden monument was still there in 1970, when we first came to town,” Hubert said. “And I was there when the stone one went up.”

Tobey said that was in the 1990s.

The recently relocated World War II memorial at the Riverside Cemetery annex in Pittston. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Some work remains to be done before the monument is dedicated next June. The flag pole needs to be painted and Tobey has been considering how to install a screen on the light that shines on the flag so it doesn’t also shine in the windows of nearby homes.

And even though it is not done, he said, he has already heard people appreciate being able to see the monument.

The main concern now is securing donations to add other wars and other names. Tobey said a number of residents expressed interest in the project at Town Meeting, and someone has provided a list of names of people who have served in the military to add to future monuments.

“We’re open from 7 in the morning until 7 at night, and if you just want to go down and set there and relax, you can,” Tobey said. “It’s nice to set there, you have a little traffic to kind of help your mind a little bit, but it’s a beautiful area.”

 


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