Monuments & Ceremonies member publishes book of Darien monuments
Twenty-eight years ago, in 1992, I was appointed to Darien’s newly formed Monuments and Ceremonies Committee by then First Selectman, Hank Sanders. Committee members inherited some newspaper clippings from 1974 and a partial list with one sentence descriptions of Town Monuments and Memorials compiled in 1987 by Alfred M. Street, Louise H. McLean, Patricia Wall, Lawrence McClellan and others.
Members of that original 1992 Committee included Chairman, Judge Phil Morehouse who traced his family back to the early settlers of this area, and Bob Fatherley one of the founders of the Darien Historical Society whose wife Emeline was related to the Mathers. Phil and Bob were passionate about identifying and preserving Darien’s monuments. Of that original 1992 Committee, I am the only one still serving. Eventually, that Committee officially became Darien’s Monuments and Ceremonies Commission.
I have always been interested in history and in 1977 I researched three Revolutionary War Patriots from Pennsylvania for my membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Finding more specific information about Darien’s Monuments and Memorials was a natural progression for me. No comprehensive list of Darien monuments existed, so I decided to write one. The result is my book, Monuments and Memorials of Darien Connecticut.
In May of 2017, I wrote about the history of the former Fitch Home on Noroton Avenue, and the Karl Lang statue in the Spring Grove Veterans Cemetery for a Memorial Day edition of The Darien Times. My husband, David took the published photos of these monuments for me.
It occurred to me then that little was known about Darien’s many monuments and I discussed this with The Darien Times Editor, Susan Shultz who agreed to publish my “Monument of the Month” series giving me a by-line. By November 2019, I had researched, written about and published information and photos on more than twenty-four of Darien’s town monuments.
I’ve devoted a whole section of my book to Darien’s long-standing tradition of honoring veterans. Darien’s Spring Grove Veterans Cemetery is the oldest of three veterans cemeteries in CT. Here lie 2,184 service men and women from the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII and the Korean War who have reached their final resting place.
A flagpole and plaques on a pedestal in Spring Grove Cemetery honor veterans from WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Another veteran memorial in Spring Grove Veterans Cemetery is the keystone arch at the entrance dedicated on Memorial Day, 1932 as a gift from the State of CT to the Fitch Home for Soldiers. The Karl Lang sculpture is the centerpiece of Spring Grove Veterans Cemetery. Lang lived on Nearwater Lane in Darien and worked with Gutzon Borglum as the project foreman on the carving of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and he also worked on Stone Mountain in Georgia.
The Gettysburg Address Memorial Plaque was dedicated in 2012 and the Witness Tree Memorial was dedicated in 2019. Both are in Spring Grove Veterans Cemetery.
Another Veteran Memorial is on the Post Road near the railroad station. This was originally a wooden Honor Roll approved by the Darien Board of Finance and dedicated in 1942. Monuments and plaques in the Veterans Memorial Circle in front of the Darien Town Hall honor veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War and also include a Purple Heart monument. In June of 2020, the Darien Bicentennial Committee and Good Wife’s River DAR Chapter had plans to mark the grave of Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Bell, Jr. Darien’s founding father who is buried in Slauson Cemetery on Hanson Road.
My book also contains photos and background information about the monuments and plaques at Cherry Lawn, Tilley Pond, Ring’s End Bridge, the Firefighters Monument on the Post Road, and the 9/11 Monument located behind Middlesex Middle School. Darien’s monuments and plaques dedicated to D. Nick Frate, Eileen “Boe” Gallagher, Peter Pund, Wyman Procter, Gene Coyle, Genarro Frate and others are also in the book.
After talking to a friend Joe Mackenna who worked in advertising, I decided to compile the articles into a comprehensive book complete with photos, and a brief history with latitudinal and longitudinal locations of each monument. Joe was instrumental in designing the layout and went through many revisions prior to a limited release publication in February 2020. Especially in this bicentennial year, the book would appeal to both young and old, current and former Darien residents interested in the history of the town. The presentation of the facts makes for a compelling yet relaxing read. Local real estate agents, Scout troops and the Darien Historical Society have expressed a desire for copies of their own.
On June 1, I plan to retire as a member and Secretary of the Darien Monuments and Ceremonies Commission and I wanted to leave a useful, lasting, legacy for Darien.
Those interested in purchasing a copy of the book can email the Poletts at email@example.com.
Karen Polett is originally from Conyngham, Penn. She taught fourth grade for 34 years in Westchester County. Before that, she was the head of the English Department of the French American School in San Francisco, Calif.
She is an honorary regent of the Darien Good Wife’s River Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, where she served as regent for six years. She is currently a member of the chapter’s executive board as well as registrar and public relations chairman. She is a life member of the CTDAR society of regents and officers club.
Karen is the longest-serving member of the Monuments & Ceremonies Commission and is currently secretary while her husband David is the commission chairman. Karen and David along with their rescued pet schnoodle Harley, live in Darien. Their daughter Blake Harter Polett, now a resdent of Rapid City, South Dakota, graduated from Darien high school.
David Polett is a 43 year resident of Darien and was in teaching in Westchester County for 35 years before retiring with Karen in 2004. He was Master of Ivanhoe Lodge #107 in 1988. He served as the president of the Masonic Club of Darien for 12 years. David was a board member of the Darien Historical Society for six years.