The Veterans’ Memorial Gazebo at Wilcox Park has had a facelift recently. Its garden has been replanted and the structure has been freshened up.
Four scout leaders and a few husbands and fathers supervised the work of local Daisy and Brownie Scouts on a recent Saturday. A grant from Milford Environmental Protection Initiative (MEPI) helped make the project possible.
The girls pulled weeds, added soil and planted perennials in a small garden, plus added a few annuals for color. They will take turns watering it during the summer.
The girls started with a simple gardening plan, but they didn’t stop there. They added three hanging plants to the inside of the gazebo, and parents cut down some nearby reeds so that people sitting on the two outside benches will actually see the harbor from the “harbor overlook.” Wines and More donated a large barrel that had been cut in half to make two containers, which the scouts filled with soil and more flowers to brighten up the surrounding area. Not done yet, the leaders had arranged a very special surprise.
That’s when 95-year-old veteran Roy Green showed up in his Navy hat to thank the scouts for taking care of the gazebo for all the veterans. He told them about his experiences and about the 204-foot amphibian landing craft he served on.
The scouts, too young to fully understand, listened politely, but the adults edged forward to hear every word Green said. His duty was to deliver supplies, tanks and trucks to islands in the Pacific from 1943 to the beginning of 1946. Near the end of the war his ship briefly anchored at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where he was an eyewitness to the aftermath of the bombings.
What the girls will probably remember when they are older is that they once met one of the few surviving veterans of World War II who lived the history they eventually studied. He thanked the scouts and they thanked him.
The scout leaders coordinating all this were Jennifer Shoop, Samantha Bergan and Allison Pitts of Daisy Scout Troop 30320 from Live Oaks and Orchard Hill schools. Kylie Guest is in charge of Brownie Troop 38323 from John F. Kennedy School.
The idea for sprucing up the gazebo this summer came from Carlyne Labrecque, a longtime Milford Gulf Street resident now living in Orange. Marilyn May worked with MEPI to secure a grant to fund the project.
The gazebo was originally dedicated May 30, 1992 by the Milford Harbor Commission, and a plaque was donated by a group (no longer active) called Concerned Harbor Users of Milford (CHUM). Over the years the structure suffered from neglect, litter, graffiti and careless use. So in 2015 Labrecque thought the gazebo, that is in honor of military men and women who served the country, needed a little work — actually a lot of work.
That year she contacted Boy Scout Troop 12 and connected with then 17-year-old Nick Foss, who was looking for an Eagle Scout project. He was eager to take on the work. He raised money and led other scouts through a restoration that took 250 hours of carpentry, painting, roofing, and flooring. They also installed new benches on the inside and arranged that the cupola be rebuilt by its original builder.
The gazebo was rededicated by Mayor Ben Blake on Memorial Day weekend 2016 and a plaque citing the scouts was added. Then, in 2017, Lowe’s employees did a one-year community service project and built a raised garden. A garden, however, needs yearly tending and that’s what the Daisy and Brownie Scouts are doing now thanks to Labrecque’s ongoing interest in the site.
Over the years, the 2016 plaque honoring the Boy Scouts’ restoration work was vandalized, prompting Labrecque to order and pay for a new one that was just installed.