Eagle project restores gazebo and honors veterans

Local resident Carolyne Labrecque has enjoyed the gazebo at the boat ramp for a number of years, sitting under its roof, looking at the harbor, the boats and nature. But three years ago she was upset at the condition that the gazebo, dedicated to veterans, had fallen into. Graffiti marred it, and the floorboards and other parts of the structure were loose.

“I kept looking at the [dedication] sign and thought, ‘Is this a way to honor veterans?’”

One day, after thinking long and hard about who might repair the gazebo, she thought of the Scouts, and she made a call.

That call finally landed word of the gazebo in the hands of Nick Foss, now 17, a Milford resident who was looking for a project to earn his Eagle award, which is the highest award in Scouting.

Nick took on the gazebo restoration as his Eagle project, and he, along with other Scouts from Troop 12, as well as Scout leaders, veterans, city officials and Labrecque, took part in a ceremony Sunday to rededicate the newly restored gazebo to veterans.

Tom Flowers, chairman of the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission, said history about the gazebo is “a little murky.”

It was dedicated May 30, 1992, by the Milford Harbor Commission, and a plaque donated by a group called Concerned Harbor Users of Milford donated a plaque that noted the building stood in honor of veterans.

“Up to two years ago, I didn’t even know the gazebo here was dedicated to veterans,” Flowers said.

Nick said it was very gratifying to lead an Eagle Scout project that brought the gazebo back to a proud state, a structure fitting to stand in honor of men and women who served their country.

He raised funds and led fellow Scouts through a project of restoration that saw the gazebo stripped to just its floor and roof. He and his fellow Scouts painted, restored the floor and sides, installed new benches and more.

Nick said his mother, Susan Foss, helped track down the gazebo manufacturer, who said he still had the designs for a cupola that once stood atop the gazebo.

Nick’s father, Ben Foss, said the company was more than happy to make a new cupula based on those designs.

On Sunday, Nick helped dedicate the gazebo to all veterans, but he made a special mention of his great-grandfather, who fought in WWII. His great-grandfather, John ‘Pop Pop’ Knapp, joined the Marines on Dec. 8, 1941. He was planning to enlist in the Army, but the line to the recruiter’s office was too long, so he went around the corner and enlisted with the Marines, Nick said.

He said Pop Pop didn’t have patience for long lines, and neither does Nick or his father. “I guess it’s in our genes,” Nick said.

So ‘Pop Pop’ joined the Marines, and according to Flowers he was in the 1st Marine Division and was at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Nick said completing the Eagle project taught him many of the qualities that veterans like his great-grandfather possessed: courage, leadership, loyalty, bravery and camaraderie.

The Scouts logged up to 250 hours on the project. They started last summer and finished in October, when the cold weather had already set in. Nick, a junior at Foran High School, said the toughest part may have been working in those cold months.

Colony Grill donated food to the troop while they worked, Lowes donated material and Colony Paint donated paint.

Mayor Ben Blake spoke at the dedication ceremony, noting that it was appropriate the gazebo be dedicated on Memorial Day weekend, just before the city’s Memorial Day Parade. In addition to city and veteran representatives, Nick’s family was on hand, including his parents and his sister, Jessica, 15.

Labrecque looked at the restored gazebo, and pointed to a display of photographs she had taken as the Scouts rebuilt it.

“I’m delighted with the way it came out,” she said.