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.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Suzanne Carl­son scarl­son@courant.com

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.

Ryan McCann

LIAM McCANN holds a piece of the fin­ger that was bro­ken off West Hart­ford’s Noah Web­ster statue.

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