Controversial Oakdale rabbit will stay for Dedham Flag Day Parade
By Dave Eisenstadter Wicked Local Dedham
Parks and Recreation Director Robert Stanley said Wednesday morning that a meeting would take place on Friday morning with the town administrator and with representatives from both sides of the issue to see if a resolution could be reached.
In the mean time, the rabbit would remain, he said.
“From a Parks and Rec standpoint, we gave them permission to put it there and we’re not going back on that, but we would like the groups to revisit that based on the input we’ve received over the past couple of days,” Stanley said on Tuesday, June 12.
The rabbit was placed in the Oakdale Square common on Sunday, June 10. It is one of 15 decorated crouching rabbits set to be located throughout town as part of the Dedham Public Art Project, an initiative of the Dedham Shines organization.
Upon seeing it on the common, some veterans contacted Norfolk County Commissioner Francis O’Brien. O’Brien visited for himself and was angered by what he saw.
“I don’t want a rabbit in a veterans’ park; it’s as simple as that,” O’Brien said on Tuesday afternoon. “We [veterans] want that rabbit out of there.”
The Dedham Public Art Project didn’t get permission from the Veterans Council, O’Brien said. The Veterans Council is comprised of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 42 in Dedham, the American Legion Post 18 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2017.
“No commander was notified; nobody was asked,” O’Brien said.
Monika Wilkinson, co-president of the nonprofit Dedham Shines, didn’t speak with representatives of the Veterans Council or with Dedham’s veteran agent William Aitken, but she did speak with Marie-Louise Kehoe, a representative of the Veterans Monument Committee who spearheaded the effort to erect the monument in Oakdale Square in 2004.
“Those leading the Dedham Public Art Project have acted only with positive intentions for this community,” Wilkinson wrote in a statement about the Oakdale rabbit emailed on Tuesday, June 12. “The temporary placement of the sculpture in Oakdale common was done with sensitivity and respect for the monument that shares this public space and with gratitude to them men and women of the armed forces who are honored there.”
Dana McQuaid, Commander of the VFW Post 2017, disagrees.
“The veterans monument is not a place for something like that,” he said of the rabbit. “That’s hallowed ground.”
McQuaid found out about the placement through O’Brien at a gathering at the American Legion Post 18 on Monday night, he said.
“He was pretty upset,” McQuaid said of O’Brien, adding that most people at the gathering agreed with him.
Kehoe said the rabbit was placed only after extensive discussions between her, another representative of the Veterans Monument Committee, the artists and representatives from Dedham Shines and the Oakdale Square Alliance.
“I have a total dedication to veterans and I would never ever do anything to disrespect them or to show any disrespect to those people we are honoring at the Oakdale park,” Kehoe said on Wednesday morning. “The last few days have been a huge ordeal for me and I have taken it personally.”
Kehoe, along with other members of the monument committee, raised $250,000 to put the monument up in Oakdale Square, she said.
A different monument, dedicated to the Marine Corps, had been located in Dedham, but over 10 years ago was removed at night and relocated to Norwood without knowledge of either town’s leadership, according to Kehoe.
Kehoe’s husband was a marine who served overseas. She bought the flagpole and a piece of granite placed in the common and dedicated it to her husband, she said.
Wilkinson said the rabbit, whose name is Leroy, was dedicated to Joe Pagliuca, a longtime Dedham resident and veteran who grew up in Oakdale. Pagliuca died in January of this year.
Mike Glowacki, one of the artists who decorated the rabbit placed in Oakdale Square, is a veteran who served in Iraq and Somalia.
“We were trying to be very respectful in the space,” Wilkinson said. “We have any number of rabbits we could place there and we chose one we thought would be respectful.”
The rabbit was always meant as a temporary exhibition, and will be auctioned off at the end of the Dedham Public Art Project.
The Oakdale Square Alliance discussed the issue at a meeting on Tuesday evening.
For several members of that organization, the issue was less about the rabbit and more about the free use of Oakdale common.
“I see that common every day; no one every goes in that common,” said alliance member Christine Ryan. “The minute the bunny went in, parents brought their kids in on carriages and families were congregating there. It was the first time I ever saw any activity there.”
Kathleen Kalell, another member of Oakdale Square Alliance, objected to the term “hallowed ground,” used by McQuaid.
“I had no notion that we were creating ‘hallowed ground’; I would not have been involved with it had I known that,” she said of the creation of the monument.
Kehoe organized the meeting scheduled for Friday, June 15, between the town administrator, and invited representatives from Oakdale Square Alliance as well as the Veterans Council and the Parks and Recreation Director.
“I’m disappointed, I’m hurt and I’m sorry that all these people that are offended didn’t pick up the phone and call me and listen to my side of the story, but it will be told,” she said.
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