A peewee PI finds statue’s missing part
Sharp-eyed 6-year-old in Connecticut figures out what an odd chunk of rock really is.
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Liam McCann, 6, was visiting a historic cemetery with his family recently when he spotted an unusual rock atop a gravestone.
Liam brought what he thought might be a crystal to his parents, but dad Ryan McCann told him to put it back.
“That was it, and we really didn’t think a whole lot of it,” McCann said.
A few days after visiting the cemetery, Liam’s mother brought her children to the West Hartford Center district and they walked past the statue of Noah Webster. The statue has been missing its extended left pointer finger for about six months after vandals broke it off, and Liam made a sudden connection.
“That’s the crystal, the rock we found in the graveyard,” Liam said. His parents reluctantly agreed to go back for the mysterious rock.
“It was very matter of fact,” McCann said. “You want to believe him, but you think there’s no way that’s actually part of the statue.”
When they returned with the rock, he was shocked to find that “it fits right into it,” McCann said. They took photos of Liam holding the rock up to the statue, and “he was beaming ear to ear and thought it was pretty cool.”
It was part of the missing finger. The family brought it to a nearby city library, and another piece was recovered in a town parking lot.
Police Officer Ryan Dudzinski said that there are no surveillance cameras in the area and that no suspects had been identified. But anyone found responsible for the damage would face vandalism charges.
As for Liam, “he must be a very smart kid,” Dudzinski said.
Jennifer DiCola Matos, executive director of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society, agreed.
“I think that kid must be brilliant,” Matos said. “I think it’s amazing that for every kid who wants to play a prank and break off the finger, it’s great that there’s someone else standing in place ready to protect the statue.”
As for Webster, best known as the author of the first American dictionary, Matos said he was a presence throughout town. “Noah Webster is West Hartford’s favorite son. He’s the most famous person that is actually a product of the town, and I think that makes him unique,” Matos said.
Matos said that the statue’s finger had been broken off periodically through the years and that a seam from past repairs was clearly visible.
An article in the Hartford Courant in 1953 details an “amputation … without the benefit of anesthesia” on the statue by a vandal who used a broken curb from Memorial Road to crack off the finger, and said that police were “hunting for the ‘surgeon.’ ” The article notes that “this is not the first time the statue has been desecrated,” but that the finger was recovered and reattached.
The statue is by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Dismayed that Webster’s hometown didn’t have a memorial to the man, Ziolkowski carved the statute from 30 tons of marble, despite financial and political obstacles from residents who believed that it was unnecessary.
The statue was unveiled on Oct. 17, 1941, on the 183rd anniversary of Webster’s birth. Ziolkowski left town to serve in World War II soon after the statue was complete, and his last and most famous work is a monumental carving of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse in South Dakota.
LIAM McCANN holds a piece of the finger that was broken off West Hartford’s Noah Webster statue.