WHITMAN – The metaphor of an empty – or vacant – chair as a reminder of life lost in war dates back at least to a Civil War song by H.S. Washburn.
Now Whitman has its own empty chair as a POW/MIA memorial, presented by Veterans’ Services District Director James Crosby and Veterans’ Services Officer Tom McCarthy and accepted by the Board of Selectmen Tuesday.
Crosby and McCarthy found an unused chair in Whitman Town Hall, which Crosby refinished as a permanent symbol of remembrance that will be placed in a roped-off area between the Collector and Town Clerk’s offices. They are working on a similar project for Abington, which shares their services with Whitman.
“They’ve done a really fantastic job to-date addressing the needs of veterans in both communities,” Town Administrator Frank Lynam said to introduce the presentation.
“This is a POW/MIA Honor Chair – a program that’s going though the United States,” Crosby said, noting similar chairs have been presented to the Boston mayor’s office as well as Gillette Stadium, TD Garden and several police departments and town halls across the state. “It’s a chair that remains open and empty so that we can bring awareness to all our prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.”
A plaque donated by Disabled American Veterans Chapter 119 of Whitman dedicates and explains the chair’s message.
In other business, Selectmen voted to approve the transfer of $6,000 associated with benefit costs of the ratified DPW union contract, which had been assigned to the salary line, so the benefits could be paid.
And then there was pickleball.
Selectmen approved a request by COA Director Barbara Garvey to set off an unused basketball court behind the Police Station on Essex Street for the unusual low-impact sport named for a cocker spaniel who liked to chase tennis balls.
While few locally have ever heard of it, the combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton has hundreds of thousands of devotees nationwide – especially among seniors, though it has multiple-generation appeal.
“After the painful jokes I made [Garvey] actually explained to me what pickleball was,” Lynam said. “But it didn’t help, so I went online.”
He found a three-minute report from the erstwhile “CBS Early Show,” which he screened for the board to explain the sport.
Local seniors currently playing in Abington have expressed interest in a location on which to play in Whitman, according to Lynam, who said the basketball courts in question would require some rehabilitation. He said some seniors are willing to help with the work and suggested the DPW might help fill in overgrown areas and level it out.
“It wouldn’t cost much, but it would be an opportunity to offer a program to seniors that we don’t currently have,” he said. “I think it’s worth trying to see if there’s any interest in it.”