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                                                     A Plaque for Willard

                                                                             By Virginia Cyr

    A much-loved and highly respected gentleman, Willard Taft, of 90 Dutcher Street, was honored
    Saturday morning by this town. Taft, who is heading for his 92nd year, thought that he was attending
    Saturday's unveiling of the monument commemorating the completion of the Parklands Nature Trail.
    He was surprised to learn that the trail was being dedicated in recognition of his many years of
    dedication as a park commissioner and for his love and concern for the Parklands and Hopedale
    Pond, for the people who enjoy the area, and for the wildlife which find refuge there.

    Taft candidly admitted he was sent into a state of shock when Selectman Chairman Al Sparling
    presented him with a proclamation declaring Saturday, October 19, was to be observed as Willard
    Taft Day in Hopedale. The morning sky was sunless and the wind was blowing heavily across the
    pond as the guest of honor was surrounded by more than 30 town officials, relatives, friends and
    neighbors who gathered to say thank you to Taft.

    The dedication was sponsored jointly by the Board of Park Commissioners and the Hopedale
    Foundation. A plaque on the monument reads, "Hopedale Parklands Nature Trail, dedicated to
    Willard W. Taft for his many years of dedication in preserving this special landscape for the enjoyment
    of all."The inscription is followed by a quotation from Thoreau's "Walden, the Ponds, 1854" - "If the
    forest features of the landscape are to be named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest
    men alone."

    Talking to Taft at his home following the dedication, he was still pretty much speechless. He admitted
    that he was completely dumbfounded when he learned the dedication was being made in his honor.
    "I saw that darn stone being brought into the Parklands' entrance and I thought to myself, "What darn
    fool thing are they doing now," he said. Taft's Dutcher Street home is located in front of the pond and
    entrance to the Parklands. He said he then proceeded to forget about it.

    "I was so happy to see so many of my friends present. I didn't know anyone cared. I am fortunate to
    have good friends," Taft said.

    Taft, who is a twin, was born in Upton and spent his early years there. He also spent time in
    with his aunt, the late Etta Lurvey. Because of family deaths, Willard moved to Texarkana and he
    attended Texas A & M. He returned to Hopedale in 1928 to reside with his aunt who had, by that time,
    moved to 90 Dutcher Street, the duplex Taft now owns.

    Taft went to work in the Draper Corporation where his designing and organizational skills were put to
    use. He received many words of commendation for his work there. His interest in the well-being of
    people, especially youngsters, and in wildlife and nature-related issues, have always prevailed.

    Taft taught many youngsters how to ski on the now non-existent ski tow and how to appreciate the
    Parklands and the pond. His love is for natural beauty and its preservation. He served as a park
    commissioner for several years, having retired from the political scene a couple of years ago.
    His twin brother, Harold, who resides on Cape Cod, was unable to attend Saturday's dedication.
    However, a cousin, Ken Wood of Upton, was present to share in his cousin's honor, as was Willard's
    long-time friend, Carl Anderson, also of Upton.

    Among the town officials present were Selectman and Hopedale Foundation director, Al Sparling,
    Hopedale Foundation directors William B. Gannett and Peter Ellis, Park Commissioners Rick
    Espanet, Bob Colcord and Mark Sesona, Commission on Disabilities chairman, Peter Ellis, Jr. and
    Fire Chief David Bliss.

    The sponsors of the dedication acknowledged the many people who contributed materials, time and
    effort to make the event possible.

    The granite block was donated by Kimball Sand & Gravel of Blackstone. The plaque was provided by
    the Hopedale Foundation; landscaping design and materials were donated by Swift's Creative

    The Highway Department and foreman, Bob DePonte, played an essential role in the effort, moving
    the granite block to its present location.

    A special note of thanks went to George Labadie, Taft's next-door neighbor, who was charged with
    diverting Taft's inquisitive nature away from the covered granite. Milford Daily News, October 21,

    Willard W. Taft, 94 Retired Draper Corp. employee

    July 18, 1999

    Willard W. Taft of Hopedale, a longtime employee of Draper Corp., died Tuesday
    at the Geriatric Authority Nursing Home in Milford. He was 94.

    Mr. Taft was born in West Upton and relocated to Texas, where he graduated
    from Texarkana High School. He also attended Texas A & M University.

    He then came back to Massachusetts and lived in Hopedale since 1928.
    Mr. Taft had more than 40 years of service in shuttle engineering at the former
    Draper Corp. in Hopedale before retiring in 1969.

    He also served as a park commissioner in Hopedale for many years. In 1996,
    he was honored by the Hopedale Park Commission and Hopedale Foundation
    with a monument and plaque in recognition of his many years of preserving the
    Hopedale Parklands Nature Trail. …