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Westfield tribute effort was ‘LABOR OF LOVE’

Portage Street park focus of recent discussion

Photo by Janese Berkhouse

WESTFIELD — During a recent Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club Zoom meeting, Westfield resident Al Holbrook explained how the First Responders Tribute was established.

This small park is located at 18-28 North Portage St. where the Portage Inn had been located. Holbrook’s program was sponsored by Janese Berkhouse, Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club President.

Holbrook said, “Establishing the First Responders Tribute really was a labor of love.” Holbrook retired from the Westfield Academy and Central School District after serving 30 years as its business manager and district clerk. He is the past president of the following: Westfield Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, Westfield Memorial Hospital Foundation, Southwestern Chapter of the NYS Association of School Business Officials and the Westfield Exempt Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

He retired from the Volunteer Fire Department of Westfield after serving for 44 years as an active firefighter and 40 years on the rescue squad. Holbrook is the current treasurer of both the Westfield-Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and the Westfield Development Corp. He also is a trustee of the Westfield YWCA, trustee of the Village of Westfield, treasurer of the Sons of the American Legion Squad 327 and chairperson of The Westfield Fund.

Holbrook discussed the inception of the First Responders Tribute. He said, “At the end of one of the firemen’s ox roasts in Ottaway Park several years ago, some of us were standing around the flagpole area, which was a bit unsightly. We talked about how nice it would be to turn it into something in honor of first responders. The site could be viewed by folks who return to Westfield for their class reunions.”

He said that in 2017 there was a meeting of 25 people who were interested in pursuing the idea of creating a tribute in honor of Westfield First Responders. Eventually a formal steering committee was established. Possible sites for the tribute were discussed.

“Some of the sites considered were Ottaway Park on Route 5, Moore Park in downtown Westfield and the Portage Street site.

“We decided on the Portage Street location because that is where Westfield’s first firehall and first jail were located. Also, Chautauqua County had received a substantial grant to develop the property as an access to parking and the gorge. The Chautauqua Trail will go through the gorge area and a small amphitheater will be built into the hillside below.”

The purpose of the small park is to acknowledge and pay tribute to those currently serving, and to those who have served, as first responders with the Town of Westfield and/or the Village of Westfield. Holbrook stated, “As far as I know, this is the only first responders tribute in our area.”

The First Responders Tribute Fund was established with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF).

About 200 commemorative bricks for the site have been sold to date and more are available for purchase. The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club donated $100 for one 8“x 8” brick last year.

Two sizes of commemorative bricks are available. The 4” x 8″ bricks for $50 may be engraved with two lines and up to 12 characters in each line. The 8” x 8″ for $100 bricks may have four lines and up to 12 characters in each line engraved or a logo may be included. Bricks may be ordered by contacting the NCCF at 716-366-4892; Sue Poster, 248-830-6058; or Marilyn Hemmer, 716-753-6043. Plans are to have all of the commemorative bricks installed by next spring.

Holbrook said that in addition to the commemorative bricks, mugs may be purchased for $20. The outside of each mug features an image of the First Responders Tribute. There is a choice of two interior colors; blue symbolic of police and red for the fire department. Contact Holbrook, 326-3691 or Marilyn Hemmer, 753-6043.

In September 2019 a dedication ceremony of the tribute was held. The tribute includes an 8-ft. tall obelisk made of concrete and metal covered with stone from Coronado Stone of Westfield. It sits at sidewalk level on a 35-ft. round brick pad. On its top is a black bell, which was donated by David and Sandy Brown, Westfield residents. The monument is surrounded by the American, Police and Fire flags. On the obelisk are the police and fire departments’ prayers and badges.

Donations to the First Responders Tribute Fund of the NCCF will be accepted until Sept. 21. Holbrook noted, “On that date the account will be officially turned over to the Village of Westfield. Any remaining funds will go directly to the Village of Westfield for future maintenance of the First Responders Tribute.”

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