Community to restore historic Army tank on Green in New Milford

NEW MILFORD — An iconic landmark on the Village Green is getting a facelift.

The restoration of the tank at the south end of the Green is expected to begin Wednesday and be completed by the end of the weekend.

The project is a collaborative effort among town agencies, veterans’ groups, businesses, individuals and Scouts.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Jim Delancy, commander of VFW Post 1672 in town. “The tank needs to be spruced up, and the people who are stepping up is a great tribute to the town and veterans.”

The tank has been on the Green since the late 1940s.

Veteran Paul Murphy said he has seen the deterioration of the tank over the past few years — rusty spots that could injure a child climbing on the tank, and peeling paint and stickers have been eyesores — and advocated for its repairs.

But repairs cost money. After speaking with Mayor Pete Bass, Murphy decided to solicit the funds and efforts of the community. He posted photographs of the tank on social media and asked if anyone would be willing to help. Immediately, he received responses.

Among the first to respond was resident Howie Hammer, who operates an auto body shop in town, who reached out to his network of folks in the industry and lined up donors to provide the necessary work and supplies.

“I like helping when I can help,” said Hammer, who will paint the tank. “It’s a way of giving back to the town and being a part of history.”

In more recent years, local Scouts have painted the tank as part of Eagle Scout and community service projects.

“In the past, Scouts have sanded and painted the tank,” Parks & Recreation Director Dan Calhoun said. “They researched the history (of the tank) and did a wonderful job.”

But the tank is in need of “major work” now, Calhoun said. “And we have an opportunity to have a professional come in, and we pretty much have all donors and volunteers.”

This restoration will be much more in-depth, with the tank being lifted off its concrete pad, so the underside can be assessed and any repairs can be made.

The tank will be sandblasted to remove all layers of paint, then primed and painted its original color, No. 9 olive green, as it was painted in 1942. All the stars and letters will be painted on the tank, rather than using stickers, as has been the case in the past, Murphy said.

All work is being donated/sponsored by local businesses and individuals, according to Hammer, who is overseeing the team.

Resident Pete Markahani, of Sikkens Paint Company, is sponsoring the paint. Peter Efthumiatos, owner of PTG Media Blasting and Restoration Services in town, will handle the sandblasting, and Dany Letourneau will provide the blasting materials.

Northeast Tent will donate a tent to cover the tank while work is being done, and Goatboy Soaps will sponsor the installation of the tent. Candlewood Valley Motors will sponsor food.

Calhoun, Parks & Rec staff and Parks & Recreation Commission Chairman Alfred Esposito have worked in collaboration with the mayor, Murphy and Hammer to ensure the irrigation system on the Green isn’t harmed with the work being done.

Boy Scouts have been invited to help with crowd control and oversee a table where donations to veterans groups will be accepted.

Local veterans groups such as the American Legion and VFW have not been able to hold their traditional fundraisers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bringing the tank to town was the brainchild of Charlie Robertson, the adventurous son of William Robertson, president of Robertson Bleachery and Dye works, according to the late Harry Cohen’s explanation of the tank’s arrival in town in a 2007 letter to the editor.

Dubbed the Stuart by the Army, the tank was at the Bleachery for a short time before making its way to the Green. It was driven in one town parade, according to Delancy.

Cohen worked with Robertson to acquire the tank and then worked with the local VFW that decided the tank should be placed on the Green to serve as a veterans’ memorial.

“It was argued not only was it a fitting relic, but also the kids loved it as a plaything,” Cohen wrote in his letter.

Climbing the tank has remained a rite of passage for many children.

“You can’t keep anybody off the tank because it’s been a monument for every little kid to climb on,” Murphy said.