Empty Cemetery Lurked Behind Playing Field  
Wednesday, October 26, 2011


John S. Piekarczyk Jr., of Scenic Avenue, lives to the east side of Webster Lake, actually across North Pond from the neighborhood in which he grew up. This means Thompson Road, not too far from Pond Court, and next door to Attorney Kevin Sullivan's law offices, in John's case.

The yards backing the former East Village dam, or The Old Swimming Hole, as the place was known, were the stomping grounds for young John and his friends. This means the gang that was about before Interstate 395 was built, and the dam was moved, and the kids knew there was a vacant cemetery behind their unofficial playground. There had been a private burial place, accessed from Pond Court and an old cart path, to follow John's directions, but it was gone by the time it was ¡§stomping grounds¡¨ for the pre-Interstate juniors.

Mr. Piekarczyk offered the information after reading about the Pond Court cemetery in this corner.
Somebody heard about the long-ago burial grounds and inquired of the DPW Cemetery Division. A ¡§by the way¡¨ reached my ears when I happened by the cemetery office, and I remembered a conversation with the late William A. Starzec, once a state representative.

Mr. Starzec and some of his friends moved several graves from the location to the town-managed Mount Zion Cemetery in the 1930s. They were teenagers. It wasn't a story to forget.

John Piekarczyk and his juvenile friends came upon the burial place years later. The graves were still pretty much open, he remembered. Another thing, if any markers were left behind, they were discarded, because the gravesites were in what is now the on-south ramp from Route 16 to I-395, added Mr. Piekarczyk.

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Alfred L. Nowicki, the retired Webster School Department custodian, wanted to know: ¡§What happened to Columbus Circle?¡¨

Al's inquiry referenced the Christopher Columbus Memorial that Webster Lodge, Sons of Italy dedicated decades ago, probably before World War II, with a parade and a program.

Mr. Nowicki recalled that a Sons of Italy committee placed a wreath at the square on Thompson Road at Lake Street for many years, always on Columbus Day. Time reduced the panel's numbers, until Maro Luigi Annese was the last participant.

The Sons of Italy and its Auxiliary reorganized as a Mixed Lodge at some point, and the Columbus Day program was continued by others. It turns out Al Nowicki's query was double-pronged: annual ceremonies, and its loss in recent times. ¡§Check it yourself, it's gone.¡¨

While reconstruction of the intersection, most recently to accommodate a four-way set of traffic signals, moved the memorial from its original position, the sign to Columbus Circle has been flattened by errant auto drivers several times over the years, generally to be repaired and returned by Webster Highway Division personnel.

The Mixed Lodge building of decades ago remains on Webster's High Street, serving as a church. A current roster of Sons of Italy Lodges in Massachusetts does not include Webster. The Worcester Lodge appears to be the nearest affiliate.

The answer to Mr. Nowicki's query seems familiar: Most of its older members have passed away, and most of the younger people have other responsibilities. It would seem that those who remember Maro Luigi Annase, Mike Dalterio, Domenic Scarglia, Bartholomew Dalimonte. Biago DiGiovanni, Frederick Manzi and John Cannalonga, to name a few, can remember what they remembered on Columbus Day. So, we have another mind-set to recall!

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The Board of Selectmen's decision not to plow snow from church parking lots, starting next year, isn't new.

Long before the town had a Board of Public Works, or a town administrator, when plowing was managed by a Board of Highway Commissioners, a budget squeeze led to a vote to abandon church lots. Robert O. Lavallee, now retired but a commissioner at the time, was the minority member. The count was 2-1, with Robert O. as the holdout.

The churches weren't happy. There wasn't a good snowstorm before the commissioners relented, and church lots were returned to the town's plowing list.

It was probably Mr. Lavallee's greatest political triumph. Now, unfortunately, budget concerns seem much more critical.

The flip side to the no snow-plowing vote is the real concern. People living on private ways are also going to lose the service. The numbers seem unknown.

For a final line on church parking lots and the town: There's a green crosswalk in Veterans Way ¡X formerly Church Lane ¡X that connects the veterans home, where some of the town veterans organizations meet, and where the town's veterans services officer has offices, to the St. Louis Church parking lot.

I don't know of any formal arrangements, but the church parking lot is available to veterans groups and people visiting the town's veterans services officer, if necessary.
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