Eagles have had an impact on the Pawtuxet Rangers, or more accurately on the Rangers’ Armory on Remington Street in the village.
Over the past four years, five Eagle Scout projects have brightened the armory – and, most recently, given it a memorial garden not far from the entrance.
Appropriately on Sunday, as it was Veterans Day weekend, the garden was formally dedicated and the Providence Troop 76 Scout who made it his Eagle project, Nicholas Loffler, was recognized.
The connection between the Rangers and Nicholas is his father, James, who as a master sergeant in the Rhode Island National Guard served as the liaison with the state’s historic militia. Evidently, James knew of other Eagle projects involving the Rangers and reached out to Commander Ron Barnes.
Barnes didn’t need to ponder a response. He put the Lofflers in contact with Rangers executive officer Phil Rowell.
Rowell has coordinated the Eagle projects of Troop 4 Gaspee scouts James Rowell, Ryan Mainville, Nick Jaggi and Harry Dolan. At different times, each of the boys took on the task of renovating an armory room, which required stripping off tired wall paper, preparing and painting walls and refinishing bookcases and cabinets.
Barnes and Rowell knew what they wanted as a fifth Eagle project – a raised garden in front of the armory. It turned into so much more.
As Barnes explained Sunday, “if you want something done in Rhode Island, you ask a friend.” What Barnes was looking for was a stone with words indicating that it is a memorial garden. Barnes thought of asking Mark Russell, who has been intimately involved for years with the Gaspee Days celebration and owns not only a pub but also a funeral home in Providence.
“Who better to ask than an undertaker?” Barnes said.
Russell gave him the name of Stanley Granite. Barnes made a call and visited the owner, Dave Czerwonka, who showed him several options for a marker stone in the range of $1,500. Barnes asked if he might have an outcast, a stone with a mistaken cutting that could be flipped over and used.
Czerwonka took him to a heap of discards, chunks of stone that weren’t likely to be used. Barnes spotted one that looked to suit what he had in mind. Czerwonka offered to do it – even deliver the 300-pound finished piece – at no charge.
Meanwhile, Nicholas worked to put together his project. He said several months went into planning the garden and then assembling the materials. The Rangers put together a fundraising effort on Facebook that brought in more than $500.
Building the garden took only a day.
On Sunday, Barnes talked about the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day and how the former started off as Armistice Day in observance of the end of World War I. Veterans Day celebrates those who have served in the military, living or dead, while Memorial Day remembers those who died in service or as a result of their battle wounds, he said.
Barnes also read several prayers and the Rangers fife and drums corps performed patriotic selections “Amazing Grace” and the “Pawtuxet Rhode March,” a lively piece composed in the last two years by Rangers Corporal Lee Singer.
Barnes also read a citation from Gen. Christopher Callahan, adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard, commending Nicholas on his project. Naturally, Barnes had a recognition for Czerwonka, presenting him with a colonial lantern in appreciation for his contribution.
Asked following the ceremony whether he might join the Rangers, Nicholas said he is focused on graduating from high school and his goal to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
And after serving in the Marines? Well, at that point he may consider it.