EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 1, 2013

Vandals damage dead boy's memorial

Latest park damage is granite bench tossed into pond


Haverhill resident Gretchen Hildebrandt was there yesterday with her mother, whom she picks up from a local nursing home each week to spend time in the park. They brought folding lawn chairs and were enjoying the beautiful summer afternoon.

When Hildebrandt was told the granite memorial bench had been thrown into the water, she shook her head in disgust.

“What a shame,” she said looking out at the water. “Nothing is sacred.”

According to police, fifth-grader Justin Thurlo was killed when a concrete block wall collapsed on him while he helped a neighbor with a basement renovation project. Officials said the 16-by-5-foot section of wall which fell on him was under the back side of the red one-story ranch home, between a cellar bulkhead and the home’s back door.

LaBrode said he discovered the damages to the park benches last Friday morning while driving by the park. He notified police, the mayor and other city officials.

Two years ago, LaBrode launched a project to repair or replace more than a dozen benches that had fallen into disrepair since the city installed them 10 or 15 years ago in various parks, including the Isaac Merrill Park, Winnekenni Park and Gale Park.

This summer, he refurbished a rotted wooden bench at Theresa Baumann Memorial Park on Lincoln Avenue and did the same for a bench in a park across from the TD Bank on Route 125 in Bradford.

“What we do is simple,” LaBrode said about his handyman skills. “I bring home six 2-by-4s, 6-feet long, then I notch them out, sand them down, then prime and top coat in what I call ‘park and recreation green.’’’

He said he buys the wood or it’s given to him. He buys paint from the Arthur Sharp True Value store in Bradford.

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