BARRE — The Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared,” was tested by the two that took up permanent residence on Depot Square over the weekend. They weren’t ready until the very last minute.
Truth be told, Giuliano Cecchinelli II would still be working on the life-sized sculpture of two scouts – one with the other draped over his back — if left to his own devices.
“I could go on forever,” Cecchinelli said Saturday. “Literally.”
However, with the exception of the hole he punched out between the bent left leg of one of his granite scouts and the tree stump it is straddling only the most experienced eye might spot the oh-so-subtle changes Cecchinelli made in the days leading up to Friday’s unscheduled “all-nighter.”
The sculpture — a monument to Barre’s disputed claim to being home to the first Boy Scout troop in the United States – was originally scheduled to be set on Friday afternoon. That’s when Cecchinelli called the carving equivalent of an audible.
Not yet ready to part with a sculpture that wasn’t quite finished Cecchinelli spent the night “touching up” the scouting monument washing it and giving it one last once over at Buttura & Gherardi Granite Artisans before it was loaded on a flatbed truck and hauled over to Depot Square.
It arrived shortly before 8:30 a.m. and Cecchinelli — talented hands plunged deep in his pockets — watched as a crane lifted Barre’s newest piece of public sculpture off the back of the flatbed truck and on to the granite base.
The base – like the small plaza of granite cobblestones – was installed last week in preparation for the 20th Annual “Scouting Salute to Veterans Parade” that brought hundreds of scouts from around the state to Barre on Saturday morning.
Some scouts arrived early and watched from a distance as the crane did all of the heavy lifting. When his sculpture was hovering a few inches above the base, Cecchinelli’s hands came out of his pockets. He strode across the cobblestones – some etched with the names of donors, most not – and made sure the centerpiece of the Barre Scouting Monument was set just right.
Though some watched from a far a small group that included members of the committee that commissioned Cecchinelli to carve the monument, assembled on Depot Square.
The committee’s chairman, Steve Restelli, was there and so was Deputy Fire Chief Joe Aldsworth, who served on the panel and spent part of last week helping Marcel Chouinard install the cobblestone. Chouinard was also there in a group that included former mayor Thomas Lauzon and Councilor Sue Higby.
Restelli acknowledged Cecchinelli’s sleepless night.
“You must be beat,” he told the sculptor.
“No, I’m excited it’s done,” Cecchinelli replied. “Definitely more excited than beat.”
Cecchinelli started carving the monument in April and that, he said, was the hardest part, because he had to work off a plaster cast of the small scale clay model he presented to the committee.
Typically, Cecchinelli would have created a half-sized model, which would have made the calculations for carving the full-sized version simpler. However, he was asked to skip that step in finishing a project Carlo Abate started in 1939.
Abate, an Italian-born sculptor, died in Barre in 1941 with a partially finished half-size plaster model of two scouts demonstrating the “fireman’s carry” sitting on his workbench. The unfinished piece was intended as a tribute to “Troop 1,” which was organized in Barre in 1909 by William Foster Milne – fueling the city’s longstanding claim it is home to the scouting movement in America.
Enter Cecchinelli, who was hand-picked by the committee based on his own model reinterpreting the one Abate started nearly 80 years ago.
“Just about everything,” Cecchinelli said. “The only thing that was the same is the pose.”
Like Abate before him, Cecchinelli went with the “fireman’s carry,” though his scouts aren’t wearing street clothes or ribbons Restelli’s research suggest didn’t exist when Troop 1 was founded in 1909.
There is an interesting, if indirect, connection between Cecchinelli’s work and Abate’s.
The clay Cecchinelli used to create his model was once part of a life-sized sculpture of the Virgin Mary that Idalo Masi carved in the living room of his Tilden House apartment years before his death in 2013. Masi, a former Boy Scout, was a student of Abate’s and posed with Leno Lavin for the original model.
Cecchinelli got some of clay after his father, namesake and one of Barre’s most talented sculptors made a plaster cast of Masi’s Virgin Mary.
On Saturday, Cecchinelli received an appreciative round of applause after the monument was in place with more than an hour to spare before the start of Saturday’s parade.