Peace statue in Orange being conserved with state grant

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 09-13-2023 5:06 PM

ORANGE – The Massachusetts Peace Statue in the center of Memorial Park is getting some work done, thanks to a matching state grant paying for its professional conservation.

Also known by the words engraved on its bronze plaque, “It Shall Not Be Again” the statue was dedicated in 1934 in recognition of World War I veterans and last underwent a full conservation effort about 25 years ago. 

Royalston Arts Foundry, owned by Jeffrey Bronnes, has been tapped for the work, having been contracted by the town for yearly inspections and maintenance and having been responsible for the previous conservation in the late 1990s.

“Conservation is actually the proper word,” he said, adding that many tend to incorrectly refer to the work as restoration. “The reason that word is used is … whatever action is done should be done in such a way that it can reversed.”

This work is made possible by $9,500 from the state Veterans’ Heritage Grants Program and a required identical amount donated by American Legion Post 172. 

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without the grant,” said Michelle LeBlanc, vice chair and secretary of Trustees of Soldiers’ Memorial. The state funding is credited to the state Legislature and the Secretary of State’s Office.

Bronnes explained the conservation will take roughly a week, as long as the weather cooperates. He said his work will entail cleaning the surface of the statue, which he added is made of bronze consisting of copper, tin and zinc.

“I basically have to simulate Mother Nature, in a clean way,” he said. “I take a blowtorch to replicate the heat of the sun, and aqueous chemicals to change coloration of the bronze surface.”

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Bronnes said he will apply a few layers of patina, a chemical that changes the color of the outer layer of a metal, and then a special glossy coating to prevent the copper from oxidizing, followed by a coat of wax.

The man who founded Royalston Arts Foundry in 1982 said he feels an obligation to the nation’s forefathers and military veterans to take on this type of work.

“The reason this piece is extremely unique from all the other pieces I’ve done ... is because it’s war monument and there’s no weapon,” Bronnes said. “And that’s very rare.”

The statue was crafted by Italian-born American sculptor Joseph P. Pollia and was designated the official peace statue of the commonwealth by an act of the state Legislature on Feb. 25, 2000. The war memorial depicts a United States soldier, having returned from war in Europe, sitting on a tree stump with his hand on the back of a young boy, who holds a book with one arm and has his other hand clenched in an outstretched fist. The two are making eye contact with each other.

On the statue’s inscription-bearing plaque is a female figure with her right hand up to her face, a helmet and gun at her feet. There are 11 stars to symbolize each of the young men from Orange who died in World War I. The inscription is taken from the poem “Apparitions” by Thomas Curtis Clark.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the monument cost $4,300 and was financed with money from state reimbursements on soldiers’ bonuses. It was featured in the Stephen King-inspired Hulu series “Castle Rock.” In fact, the show’s production team in 2018 donated $10,000 to Orange for the beautification of its parks and cemeteries. The Trustees of Soldiers’ Memorials rely on donations and grants for Bronnes’ general upkeep.

“He has always been the one that we’ve always called ... for the yearly inspections,” LeBlanc said. “We’re very confident in his work. He does a great job. He respects the statue itself. He very pours himself ... into his work.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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