By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Russell Ingram has seen and done a lot of things in his 88 years.
But seeing a bronze plaque engraved with an image of himself and his late wife of 60 years, Roberta “Bobbi” Ingram, was almost overwhelming for the World War II veteran and former bank president.
The plaque was part of a stone monument and memorial garden dedicated in the couple’s honor yesterday at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. A crowd of approximately 70 recognized the Ingrams for their contributions to the club and the community.
“It’s something I never, never thought would happen,” he said. “I wish Bobbi was here to see this monument.”
Ingram, a former state legislator and longtime Boys & Girls Club board member, and his wife dedicated their lives to making their hometown a better place.
In 2002, they donated $500,000 to build the Ingram Senior Center on Sally Sweet Way and gave thousands of dollars to the club up until Bobbi’s death in April 2010 at age 82.
But Ingram, who has called his late wife the driving force that inspired him to help others, didn’t stop giving.
In the last year alone, he donated $140,000 to the club, helping to pay off its mortgage and install a more efficient heating system. Over 10 years, the couple donated $250,000 to the club.
There was a collective “ahhh” from the crowd as club president Patrick Donovan and club members Ryan Haidaichuk and Dante Stigliano, both 10, lifted a black cloth to unveil the new monument.
“He gives not just of himself, but he gives his time and energy,” Donovan told the crowd. “He is one of the many rocks this club is built upon.”
State Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, read a Senate resolution in honor of the couple. Morse, owner of Freshwater Farms in Atkinson, donated the large stone for the monument.
“Russ Ingram has built a lot of things,” Morse said. “I think one of his biggest prides and Bobbi’s biggest prides is the Salem Boys & Girls Club. This recognition is well deserved — an honor of which you should be rightfully proud.”
Following the 15-minute ceremony, club Chief Professional Officer Michael Centor led a champagne toast in the Ingrams’ honor.
“I just feel truly blessed to have Russ as a member of the club family,” Centor said.
This wasn’t the first time Ingram has been recognized for his contributions to the community. Last year, he received the 23rd annual Chief John P. Ganley Community Service Award.
The award is given each year in memory of the former police chief, who died in 1989.
The event was attended by a contingent of prominent Salem residents and officials, including club board members, state representatives and members of the business community.
Also present were nearly a dozen of the Ingrams’ relatives, including their three children.
Son Dean Ingram said it was a special moment for his family, especially the unveiling of the monument and plaque.
“It’s great to see the image of them together,” he said.
Residents and businesses donated time and material for the memorial garden. The monument was made by Colizzi Memorials of Methuen.