CENTRAL FALLS â€” Seven years ago, the Eugene T. Lefebvre Post at 414 Hunt St. was sold to the Central Falls Housing Authority. Once a bustling social hub and gathering spot for countless local war veterans and their spouses, the post had fallen on hard times in recent years due to declining membership and an aging infrastructure.
Standing outside as staunch reminders of the postâ€™s proud history are two World War II anti-aircraft guns. Yet, as the post building has remained empty and dormant, the guns have taken a backseat as well, largely unnoticed and neglected and unprotected from the sun, rain, snow and ice.
Now, Ward 2 City Councilor Bob Ferri says plans are under way to replenish and preserve the two guns through the efforts of a Preserve Our Heritage Committee. He said the committeeâ€™s aim is to move the guns to Jenks Park on Broad Street. The hope is to accomplish this in time for a dedication on Veterans Day, Nov. 14, or, if this canâ€™t be accomplished, by next Memorial Day.
Still pending is a letter from a military curator in Washington, D.C., that will grant permission for the guns to be moved. Ferri said it is his understanding that the guns, as with all other such military artifacts, are perpetually on loan to various organizations or communities. He said the mayorâ€™s office has been assisting the group with the process of obtaining permission for the move.
â€śThis site will proudly display our military heritage in a high-visibility area, while blending into the serene atmosphere of such an historic park,â€ť said Ferri. The guns, he said, â€śhave peeled, faded, gone unmaintained and unnoticed for too long. It is time to shed light on part of our military heritage.â€ť
Ferri said the committeeâ€™s goal is to raise $5,000 to cover all expenses. These include restoring the guns through sandblasting, primer and two coats of paint; moving them to Jenks Park, and setting them on a solid cement foundation. There will also be some costs involved for landscaping, flags, the restoration of plaques, and the ceremony.
Ferri noted that this is an all-volunteer effort, with no expense to the taxpayer. Joining Ferri on the Preserve Our Heritage Committee are Al Romanowicz, Don Morin, Dick Cartwright, Denis Constantineau, Jack Harrington, Norm Laliberte and Tom Shannahan.
After the sale of the Lefebvre Post building, a few remaining members, including past post Commander William Donnelly, had expressed concerns about the future of the guns. Donnelly had previously told The Times that he had held discussions with various city officials about moving them to an alternative site in the city, such as Quinn Park.
However, he said these discussions had broken down over the rights of these historic weapons during the time that the city was dealing with its bankruptcy and receivership.
Donnelly maintains that the guns, which have sat on the lawn of the Lefebvre Post for 50 years, still belong to the post, and that Ferri and others do not have the right to simply move them to Jenks Park. He said he is not against the project, but insists that a proper release must first be obtained from Washington allowing for such a transfer.
Ferri and fellow committee member Al Romanowicz acknowledged there are still details to be worked out, but said the ultimate goal of the committee is to preserve the guns so they donâ€™t get damaged further by rust or get lost in any subsequent sale of the property.
They added that the committee does not want an adversarial relationship with Donnelly or any other post members and welcome their help.
The committee is actively seeking donations for the restoration and move of the guns.
An account has been set up at Navigant Credit Union on Broad Street under the name â€śPreserve Our Heritage.â€ť