The man who took it as part of a college prank some 40 years ago returned a sword taken from a historic monument in the United States.
Cindy Gaylord, head of the historical commission in Westfield, Massachusetts, received a phone call three weeks before Christmas from a man saying he had “something of historical significance” to the city, she told CNN.
“When I asked if he could tell me about it, he said, ‘It’s the sword from the statue of General William Shepard,'” said Gaylord, who has served as chair of the historical commission for the past five years.
“I remember in the early 1980s it was reported that it was taken and dismissed as a college joke.”
The bronze statue of General Shepard stands in a park in downtown Westfield, a small town in western Massachusetts.
Born in Westfield in 1737, General Shepard entered the Continental Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1775 and served during the Revolutionary War.
He was a friend of George Washington and played a key role in suppressing the Shay rebellion, according to the historical commission’s website.
He later served three terms in Congress from 1797 to 1803 before returning to Westfield, where he was buried after his death in 1817.
The statue was erected in 1919 to honor the Westfield hero, Ms. Gaylord said.
After the sword was noted to be missing in the early 1980s, the replacement sword was soldered to the statue so that it would not be retaken.
The mystery of the missing sword wasn’t solved until last Monday, when Ms. Gaylord met the man who took it some 40 years ago.
“He asked to tell me the story in person,” said Ms. Gaylord, who had a socially distant meeting with the man and his wife on December 28.
“It was clear that she felt a lot of remorse, she had tears in her eyes as she told me the story.”
The man, who according to Ms. Gaylord wanted to remain anonymous, is a veteran.
After serving in the military for four years, he came to Westfield to attend Westfield State University.
As he was out at night, some fellow students challenged him to take the sword from the statue of General Shephard.
He drew the sword with “brute force” and fell from the statue’s pedestal, he told Ms. Gaylord.
The heavy sword pierced his shirt and the ground as he came down, according to Ms. Gaylord.
The man ended up taking the sword back to his family’s home near Boston, where it hung over the front door for more than 20 years, Ms. Gaylord said.
It wasn’t until recently, when the man and his sister were cleaning the family home, that he decided to return it to the city.
“He told me he was so embarrassed that I’m a veteran and he did that to another veteran,” Ms. Gaylord said.
“I told him that we accept the sword back, no questions asked and that we will absolve you of all blame.”
Now that the sword has finally been returned to the city, Ms. Gaylord says it can be displayed at the Edwin Smith Historical Museum in the Westfield Athenaeum, but no decisions have been made yet.
“We are so delighted and think highly of this man for returning the sword,” said Ms. Gaylord.
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“It took him a long time to move forward, but he knew it was important to get it back.”