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New Police and Fire Memorial Slated for Perkins Street Open Space

The open space plot on Perkins Street where the old Parks and Rec building stands is slated to become a new memorial and garden in tribute to Peabody police officers and firefighters.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt, joined by city councilor Bob Driscoll, Fire Chief Steven Pasdon and several Peabody police officers and firefighters, announced Wednesday that the city will be creating a special memorial and garden to honor all of Peabody's public safety officers past, present and future.

"As we approach the first anniversary of the passing of Jim Rice, we are again reminded that the men and women who serve as firefighters and police officers are worthy of great respect and lasting gratitude," said Bettencourt.

"Each day these brave public servants go about their work knowing that the next 911 call or the next fire alarm could put their own lives or the lives of their fellow officers and firefighters in jeopardy," he said.

"[The memorial] will stand to honor the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve, those who once served, and those who will serve this great city of Peabody in years to come," said Bettencourt.

The memorial will be located on Perkins Street where currently stands an old Parks and Recreation Department building next to the James Street Park and across the street from the Skate Park.

"It's fitting because it's in between the Police Department down on the end at Allens Lane and the Fire Headquarters here on Lowell Street," said Bettencourt. "It's a well traveled area for people to see."

The distinctive feature of this memorial will be two bronze lifesize statues: one a police officer and the other a firefighter.

The statues will flank a stone monument that most likely will bear a plaque, not with individual names, but quotations or phrases. Inscribed bricks will lay the groundwork for the site, which will also have a garden and a bench, and the whole thing will be lit 24/7.

Fire Capt. Dale Kimball says it will be a "state-of-the-art" memorial, similar in some respects to the firefighter memorial in Boston, but unique in many ways.

Kimball and police officer Justin Cecil are spearheading the effort and have formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to raise the funds necessary for the project. Kimball said their goal is to raise $100,000 (the approximate cost for the two statues), no matter how long it takes.

He stressed that local chiropractor Todd Buckley will serve as the Treasurer and manage the money -- no officers or firefighters will be involved in that process.

"This is for every man and woman who put on the uniform, past, present and future," Kimball said, adding that the inspiration for the endeavor came shortly after firefighter James Rice's death last December.

"We got this idea when he passed on. Instead of somebody going to his grave, which is kind of a morbid site, these people can go to this site and remember his life, or somebody's grandfather or grandmother or whoever served the city," Kimball said. "That's why we're here, because of Jimmy Rice."

Kimball said the fundraising efforts start with selling bricks -- a website is now live where people can find more information -- and a special committee for the nonprofit will brainstorm other ways to raise money. As for the bricks, donors would be able to have a name inscribed or a dedication, for example.

Bettencourt said that while it is a private fundraising effort, the city is in full support of it and will continue to maintain the property after the memorial is installed. He added that he spoken with residents in the area and has heard only support for the project.

Driscoll added that in addition to maintenance by the Park Department, the Peabody Garden Club has also volunteered to help with the garden portion of the memorial to create a contemplative spot for residents to sit and reflect.

Pasdon said he particularly likes that aspect. He related how, during his two trips to national firefighter memorials in Colorado Springs and Emmitsburg, Md. this year for ceremonies honoring Rice and other fallen firefighters, the two sites were really parks that contained the names of the fallen and he just spent time there in reflection.

Pasdon said he went there late in the day after the crowds had left. "It was just amazing to sit there in the gardens...to sit there quietly and to reflect. That was more moving to me than the ceremony, to sit there at sunset and reflect," he said.

"When Captain Kimball and Officer Cecil approached me about their idea to build a public safety memorial in Peabody, I was quick to express my support," said Bettencourt.

"Many generations of Peabody firefighters and police officers have come and gone. Those who served the city so well in years past have left a great and lasting legacy," he said. "Each day as Mayor I see the men and women of today's police and fire departments live up to that legacy with their bravery and professionalism."

He said the memorial will be "a fitting tribute."

For more information or to purchase a brick, visit www.peabodymemorial.org or call 978-595-1106. Monetary donations can be made online or at: Eastern Bank, 37 Foster St., Peabody, MA 01960 or by sending a check to: Peabody Fire and Police Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 2064, Peabody, MA 01960.

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