EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 2, 2013

Editorial: Some cheers, some jeers for recent newsmakers

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CHEERS to Charles E. Waites, who maintains Lawrence’s famous Ayer Mill clock.

Waites recently climbed up inside the clock tower, which rises 220 feet above the city, to get the giant timepiece working again. The July heat wave was enough to stop the clock.

Waites, 61, oiled the pulley holding the clock’s main drive cables and got it working again. That’s something he normally only does twice a year.

“No one likes a dead clock,” Waites told reporter Yadira Betances. “People want to know what time it is.”

Waites has been maintaining the clock for 22 years, working 10 hours a week. There’s a nearly $500,000 endowment for the tower’s maintenance and care under the jurisdiction of the Essex Community Foundation.

“This is a good old clock. As long as it gets a weekly maintenance, it will last forever,” Waites said .

The Ayer Mill clock is only 6 inches shorter than Big Ben in London. It was installed in 1910 by the E. Howard Company in Boston and features 15-foot pendulum powered by springs and gears, clockwork made out of brass and cast iron and 1,600 pounds of glass that holds the 12-foot-long hands.

The clock fell into disrepair in the 1950s but a community campaign raised $1 million to restore it in 1991.

Waites has been devoted to the keeping of the Ayer Mill clock for some time and, despite two recent heart operations, has no plans to retire.

We’re grateful for his dedication to maintaining this icon of Lawrence’s manufacturing history.

JEERS to thoughtless vandals in Haverhill, who threw a park bench dedicated to the memory of a young boy into Round Pond.

The granite bench was a memorial to 10-year-old Justin Thurlo, a former Pentucket Lake School student who was killed in 2000 in an accident in Kingston, N.H., where his family had moved a few months prior. The bench was found in the water, upside-down, with one leg broken off.

“It saddens me to see such flagrant disregard for not only public property, but also for a bench dedicated to a child who died tragically,” said Dave Labrode, a volunteer with Haverhill Brightside who helps repair and maintain benches in Haverhill parks.

Two wooden benches that Labrode and a friend had refurbished were also moved. One was found undamaged in the water.

Those who vandalized the park clearly have no respect for public property. Haverhill’s parks are meant for all to enjoy. The benches offer people the chance to sit and enjoy the natural beauty around them.

We hope the vandals are caught and dealt an appropriate punishment.

CHEERS to Dave Labrode, who, as mentioned above, repairs park benches as a volunteer with Haverhill Brightside.

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 year, he has repaired benches in parks on Lincoln Avenue and across from TD Bank in Bradford.

“What we do is simple,” Labrode told reporter Mike LaBella. “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.’’’

Kudos to Labrode for his dedication to his community and for making its parks a little more enjoyable for all.