SALISBURY BEACH — The controversial “Before I die” chalkboard project at Salisbury Beach Center has received a reprieve, after its major sponsor promised to put a halt to the obscenities and graffiti that had polluted the intent of the exhibit.
But for at least one beach resident, Mary Steinel-Andriotakis, the change of course by town officials is “outrageous.” The reversal by town officials is contrary to what was promised at the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night.
Although many complained, beach residents Doris Steinel Fisette and her daughter, Steinel-Andriotakis, attended Monday’s meeting to ask selectmen to remove the display, saying graffiti caused by the art project had marred a memorial to Robert Steinel, Fisette’s late husband and Steinel-Andriotakis’ late father. Steinel was one of 129 men who died aboard the USS Thresher when the nuclear submarine sank during sea trials on April 10, 1963.
One of the chalkboard walls was erected 8 feet from the USS Thresher memorial.
The women said thoughtless people had written with the available colored chalk on Steinel’s memorial stone, drawn lewd pictures on the nearby sidewalk and had repeatedly written obscene comments of the chalkboard. They passed out pictures proving their statements, adding that the comments weren’t just offensive to them but to anyone seeing them, especially children.
Since Steinel died at sea, his daughter told selectmen, the memorial is the closest thing they have to a gravesite to visit and honor him. Fisette said she found the graffiti to be a symbol of disrespect for her late husband, who gave his life in defense of his country.
On the chalkboards after the phrase “Before I die I want to ... ,” most individuals wrote thoughtful phrases, like wanting to live in a world at peace. Others abused the system, writing obscene comments that Selectman Freeman Condon termed “despicable.”