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Team effort creates a salute set in stone

Lynn, Ma. 12-12-18. David DeFilippo of Woodlawn Memorials puts the finishing touches on a restored plaque in Austin Square. (Owen O'Rourke)

Francis J. Austin was a Lynner worth remembering. A group of city officials and private citizens have made sure his sacrifice will be honored for years to come.

Austin was killed on Oct. 13, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive — the final great push by Allied forces to end World War I. His heroism led city leaders to erect a monument in his honor in the years after the war, but at some point vandals stole the bronze plaque set in stone at the corner of Summer and Boston streets.

Ward 7 City Councilor Jay Walsh worked with city public works employees to spruce up the corner and city Veterans Services Director Michael Sweeney and former Grand Army of the Republic building curator Robert Matthias dug up information about Austin.

David DeFilippo, co-owner of Everett-based Woodlawn Memorials, helped install the black granite stone bearing Austin’s name last week.

“I noticed a year ago the plaque was missing and talked to (Sweeney). The corner was in rough shape and DPW took care of the overgrowth. It all kind of came together,” Walsh said.

The Austin memorial restoration is the latest in a long line of collaborations by Woodlawn, with the city’s cooperation, and financial help from David Solimine Sr. and his family to reverse damage done by time and scofflaws to local veterans memorials.

Woodlawn helped restore the women’s veterans memorial near City Hall after a car struck it and assisted in removing graffiti spray painted on the Vietnam War memorial.

“The city could have afforded to fix it but Dave reached out to us,” Sweeney said.

DeFilippo said Woodlawn manufactures hundreds of monuments annually for cemetery burials but the company is always ready to take time to restore a veterans memorial.

“It’s nice to see the remembrance and know the story behind a memorial,” he said.

Woodlawn and the city with the Solimine family’s help are carving a 500-pound granite memorial saluting Earl W. Shea, who was killed in France. The intersection of Summer and Avon streets and Dearborn Avenue is marked by a sign bearing Shea’s name.

Joel Solimine said his family enjoys a long association with Woodlawn.

“We’re always ready to help,” he said.

The memorial will be installed next to the anchor sitting on a small, circular traffic island at the intersection.

DeFilippo ran into a slight problem when he prepared to install the memorial on Wednesday: The stone bore the name of Edward W. Shay, another World War I veteran whose name, Sweeney said, appears above Shea’s name on a list of Lynn residents killed in the war.

“I am working on a new one,” DeFilippo said.

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