Published in the September 9, 2019 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — “It is often and truly said that we are here today, gone tomorrow and soon forgotten,” State Rep. Gardner Campbell said at the original dedication of the John J. Round Park on a warm August day in 1953. “We who are here today are saying that he will not soon be forgotten.”
Now, John J. Round’s descendants have ensured that his legacy as a public servant and benefactor to his community for more than half a century will continue to live in the memories of Wakefield residents for many more decades to come.
On Saturday, several generations of the Round family gathered in the park at the base of Hart’s Hill to rededicate the new and refurbished bronze plaques that grace the stone pillars at the entrance of the park known to locals simply as “JJ Round.”
John J. Round was chairman of the Board of Selectmen from 1917 to 1922. He was a Library Trustee for many years and he chaired the building committee for the high school on Main Street (the Atwell building) that was built in 1923, on the present site of the Paula Mullen Field.
But his signature contribution was his lifelong passion for public beautification, mainly in the form of planting thousands of trees all over town, but especially in the areas around Crystal Lake and the Junction.
“We have certainly done justice to our grandfather by keeping his name on the pillars of this beautiful public park,” said John J. Round’s granddaughter Margery Leslie as she opened Saturday’s rededication ceremony. She explained that one of the two plaques is brand new and the other was refurbished.
“They look just as they did in 1953,” Leslie said. The bronze work was done by Skylight Studios in Woburn, the same firm that created replicas of the missing bronze plaques at the Rockery.
Leslie said that the effort to restore the plaques was initiated by Evelyn Round, 94, the widow of John J. Round Jr. She and other members of the family, including John J. Round Sr.’s only living son, Bill Round, 92, pitched in to finance the restoration. Both Evelyn Round and Bill Round attended Saturday’s rededication ceremony.
Leslie admitted that there had been some concern that the effort to restore and rededicate the plaques might get tied up in local government red tape.
“But it never happened,” she said, “thanks to Town Councilor Paul DiNocco.” DiNocco and Town Councilor Jonathan Chines joined the Round family at Saturday’s rededication ceremonies.
Leslie also thanked former DPW Director Richard Stinson (who retired in July) for his help. Stinson was out of town and unable to attend the ceremony, but Leslie read from an email she received in which Stinson fondly recalled playing youth sports in the park.
“You should be proud of your grandfather and the gift he left Wakefield for both youths and adults,” Stinson wrote.
Leslie also thanked current DPW chief Joseph Conway and Recreation Director Dan McGrath for their assistance.
Leslie then introduced John J. Round III.
“Sixty-six years ago, we stood on this very spot and dedicated this tract of land in his honor,” Round said, recalling his grandfather. “He touched much of the area that is around us.”
He noted that his uncle, Bill Round, was present for the 1953 dedication as was his mother Evelyn.
He then introduced Kim Round, who presented a musical tribute. She said that she wanted to sing a song that evoked the forward thinking and unselfishness of John J. Round. She performed “American Anthem” by Nora Jones.
John J. Round III then introduced his son, John J. Round IV, who read the speech delivered by State Rep. Gardner Campbell at the 1953 dedication. It had been Campbell who originally proposed naming the park for John J. Round. His suggestion was subsequently approved unanimously by Town Meeting.
Campbell noted that a great deal of the early development of the park was financed by John J. Round Sr., including the stone retaining walls and entranceway.
But, when it came to John Round’s consuming interest in public beautification, Campbell observed, “I would say it originated in the trees.”
In his 1953 speech, Campbell recalled that Round had given the town at least 20,000 trees, including 10,000 on the western shore of Crystal Lake on land that he bought and deeded to the town when the reservoir was threatened. More than 3,000 trees were planted on two other plots of land that he also bought and gave to the town, including one between Main Street and what was at the time the Junction railroad station.
Campbell also credited Round with the area known as “The Pines,” at the foot of Crystal Lake. Round also replaced trees in Greenwood that were lost in the Hurricane of 1938 and was credited with providing another strip of land and the trees for it between the railroad tracks and Crystal Lake.
In Campbell’s speech, he also noted that Round once owned the two islands in Crystal Lake and that he also gave to the town four and a half acres on the southeast corner of Crystal Lake, which was populated by virgin pine.
Campbell then addressed John J. Round directly at the 1953 park dedication. He thanked Round on behalf of the town for all that he had done.
“And I remind you that your trees and your seedlings will endure to be a part of Wakefield,” Campbell said, “when perhaps all other man-made evidences of civilization as we know it shall crumble to dust.”
John J. Round III concluded last Saturday’s program by noting that his grandfather’s legacy “has been enjoyed by many generations since 1953 and with the unveiling of these refurbished plaques will continue to be enjoyed by many generations to come.”
Six-year-old Charlie Leslie, the great-great-grandson of John J. Round, then led those in attendance to the park entrance, where he assisted with the unveiling of the new and refurbished bronze plaques designating it as John J. Round Park.