On the grounds of the former Byram School, which closed in 1978 and later reopened as senior housing known as “McKinney Terrace,” there are 13 memorial plaques honoring alumni of Byram School, “Byram Boys” who lost their lives in the service of their country.
Back in 1986, when the plaques were removed by the Town, and proposed to be returned a single marble plaque, local activist Anne M Kristoff led a charge to have the markers returned to their spots under the majestic Sycamores.
The names on the markers are familiar to residents, including Repaci, Crucitti, Pecora, Tiriolo, Vrtiak.
This week a veteran, David Wold, who visits the markers daily and makes sure there is a pair of American flags beside each marker, said he was shocked to see a brand new children’s swing set had been installed amid the markers.
“Local veterans visit the memorials on Veterans Day to remember the fallen,” Wold said, adding that he expects they will be surprised to see the swing set in their midst, especially considering there is a brand new fenced-in playground down the hill.
The swing set sits atop an expansive green rubber mat, now required by code.
On one corner the mat nearly touches one of the memorial markers.
“Why wouldn’t they install the new swing set in a more suitable space next to the fenced playground?” Wold asked. “This is sacred ground.”
“It is impossible for a single parent with two children to cover or see both swing set and playground. On morning walks with my dogs I’ve walked by and straightened up the flags. Last Saturday I had to replace six of the flags closest to the swing set that had been pulled up,” he added.
“There were candy wrapping papers all over the mat under the swing set,” Wold continued. “The area with the swing set was never intended to be a potential playground, and with good reason.”
After leaving a message with Parks & Rec director Joe Siciliano on Tuesday, Dr. Greg Kramer, Superintendent of Parks & Trees returned the call on Thursday.
Kramer, who was appointed in March 2019, said he had done some research and learned that a swing set had been installed in the same location back in 2005.
At the time he said the town placed engineered wood fiber under the swing set.
“That wood fiber was removed late this summer and replaced with a permeable rubber surface,” Kramer explained. “It allows water to go through and there are no negative effects to the tree roots.”
Asked about the juxtaposition of the swing set and the memorial markers, and Mr. Wold’s complaint that the flags are being disturbed by children at play, Dr. Kramer said he believed it was more likely the result of the wind.
“I’ve been there and picked up flags. It’s the wind mostly,” he said, adding that he didn’t think it was inappropriate or disrespectful to have the swings amid the memorial markers.
“It might be good that children are learning there are people who served their country,” he said.
Time will tell. Veterans Day is Nov 11.
Back in April residents visiting the memorial marker for Donald Repaci, who gave his life in Vietnam at the age of 20, were shocked to see the mature Oak tree at his memorial had been cut down by the Town.
Facebook was abuzz with outrage until Deputy Tree Warden Steve Gospodinoff jumped into the thread and explained that the Oak tree came down in a storm and he regretted it could not be saved.
“I was born and raised in Greenwich my uncles were war hero’s in WW2 as well as my dad a WW2 and Korean War vet. I hold this ground SACRED!” Gospodinoff wrote in his post. “Unfortunately this tree broke in half during one of our winter storms. We are going to replant another Oak Tree in that same spot.”
“In the future, if any other Tree is damaged in this area as a result of a storm. I will communicate with the Byram Vets,” he added.
In May the tree was replaced and the Town organized a ceremony which was attended by the Repaci family and friends.