NEWBURYPORT — The men who fought in World War I have all passed away, but there are some in Newburyport who are dedicated to making sure that the memory of their deeds stays alive.
There was evidence of that yesterday, as city workers pulled the rotting wheels off the gray artillery gun that sits on Bartlet Mall. The wooden spoked wheels were prepped for delivery to Pennsylvania, where they will be completely repaired.
Watching over the work was one of the men spearheading the repair — Steve Bradbury Jr., a Korean War veteran and a retired Newburyport fire lieutenant.
“We hope to have it back in shape by Memorial Day,” he said. “In 1990, when we did a major overhaul on the gun, there were four World War I veterans who attended the ceremony. They’re all gone now, but in memory of them. we want to keep this gun in good shape.”
The gun — a German 75 mm artillery piece that was captured by the Allies — has been in Newburyport since 1931, when veterans of World War I brought it here to serve as a memorial to veterans of the war. It has sat at the eastern end of Bartlet Mall, near the intersection of High and Pond streets, for decades. The 1990 overhaul fixed many deterioration problems, but in the ensuing years the wooden wheels have gradually succumbed to the elements. Portions of them are rotten, and so they are going to a place where the art of making wooden wheels is still practiced — Amish Country — to undergo repairs that should end up costing about $2,000.
In the meantime, the entire gun has been covered with a blue tarp to protect the exposed axles from the elements and to keep people off of it.
Bradbury said it’s hoped that the city will find a grant for the repairs, but volunteers are also helping to make the restoration possible. For instance, the Neptunes Veteran Firefighters Associates will be transporting the wheels to and from Pennsylvania.
There were hundreds of Newburyport men and women who served during the war. Some 29 Newburyport men died, among them Frederick (Horch) Harnsworth, who was killed in action on the very last day of the war, Nov. 11, 1918, during the final attack launched by the Allies.