‘It’s Finally Happening’: Long-Planned Restoration, Completion of World War II ‘Gold Star Walk’ Underway at Mead Park


A nearly 10-year effort to revitalize a World War II memorial path in Mead Park, spearheaded by a longtime New Canaan resident, finally has an end in sight, as repair of an existing footbridge and construction of a second one recently commenced.

The existing footbridge’s of the Gold Star Walk at Mead Park. Credit: Catherine Gorey

Originally installed in 1945 at the end of World War II by a local gardening club, the “Gold Star Walk” at Mead had included 38 flowering trees honoring each of the New Canaan men who lost their lives in service (see list at end of article). Each tree had been fitted with a plaque bearing the name of the deceased.

Yet the trees and the walk have fallen into disrepair, with the plaques missing and many of the trees no longer flowering—a situation that New Canaanite and Korean War vet Jim Bach found unacceptable.

He has raised funds to complete the Gold Star Walk and has tapped local landscape architect Keith Simpson for the critical bridge work.

The plaque affixed to a boulder along the Gold Star Walk, a World War II memorial in Mead Park. Credit: Catherine Gorey

“The foundation is in for the bridge, we’re just waiting for the wooden portion and steel beams to come in,” Simpson said on a recent morning. “We’re making sure all the trees are thriving for all of the people that the walk remembers. The first bridge repairs will begin after the new bridge is put in. It really will be the best possible completion of the walk.”

It’s been a long time coming.

Almost 15 years ago, New Canaan residents Bobby Petronella and Ben Benedetto flagged the walk’s sorry condition.

Bach, a 1947 graduate of New Canaan High School and lover of Mead Park, immersed himself in a decade-long labor of love to restore and enhance the forgotten memorial.

A look at Mead Pond from the existing footbridge’s area, forming part of the Gold Star Walk. Credit: Catherine Gorey

Bach partnered with town leaders and concerned residents to plant new trees, replace the plaques and install benches in 2003. While significant improvements were made through this initial effort, the main part of the project, repairing the first bridge and installing a second to extend the walk into a full loop and creating “the experience of walking around the pond edge,” according to Simpson, was put off due to a planned dredging of Mead Park and the project’s hefty price tag.

Since then, Bach tirelessly sought out the necessary monetary support to continue the effort.  Donations came in from the Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other private donors. Municipal bodies including the Parks & Recreation Commission, Board of Selectmen, Inland Wetlands Commission and Town Council approved the plan over a period of months.

“It’s finally happening,” Bach told NewCanaanite.com. “It’s exciting to me because it’s the end of the 10-year adventure, a finish to something we started a decade ago, and an idea that started long before that.”

A ribbon cutting and grand opening of the “new” Gold Star Walk will be scheduled, he said.

The Gold Star Walk commemorates the lives of the following fallen soldiers who were New Canaan residents: William Bertram Becker, Lewis Gordon Benko, Charles Gilbert Benko, Harry Joseph Brown, Wm. Francis Browning, Kenneth John Burdick, Wm. Saunders Buttfield, William Rodney Conner, Charles Alfred Corson, Louis Czako, Thomas Henry Dubay, Frederick Wm. Eaton II, William Friend Emery, Arthur Laurence Fladd, Malcolm Ford, Claude Gravereaux, Henry Holt III, Ellery C. Huntington III, James Daniel Kelley, Karl W. Kirchwey, Jr., Albert Conrad Klett, Louis Rocco Lapolla, Raymond Harold Lussier, Ralph Lewis Moreno, Donald Francis Mulstay, Erle Edward Offen, Carl Joseph Pavia, Louis Eugene Rayner, John Patrick Ready, David Westman Rohr, Samuel Arthur Russo, Norman Edwin Scott, Frank Setti, Jr., Paul S. Smilancsky, Jr., Ernest William Urban, Francis Vishnosky, Erwin Edwin Wood

3 thoughts on “‘It’s Finally Happening’: Long-Planned Restoration, Completion of World War II ‘Gold Star Walk’ Underway at Mead Park

  1. I was given a tour by Jim last year so I know it has been a labor of love – looking forward to being at the ribbon cutting with my Uncle Jim!

  2. Several of us “old codgers” were discussing your recent article about the Gold Star Walk and decided it was time to set the record straight.
    It was almost 20 years ago that Ben Benedetto, Bob Petronella and Walt Ruscoe walked through Mead Park one day and were dismayed to see that the trees along the east shore of the pond were either dead, dying or missing altogether, They recalled that the each of the 38 flowering trees had been planted in 1945 as a memorial to a New Canaan man who was killed in action in World War II.
    Ben wrote about it in his weekly column in the Advertiser and people began contributing to a fund for planting replacement trees Ed Chrostowski wrote a series of articles detailing the lives of each of the 38 heroes and community response was generous and inspirational. New trees were planted and a boulder with a brass plaque listing the 38 names was put in place. The rejuvenation was complete and more than 1,000 people came to the dedication celebration which included talks by Penny Young, representing the Garden Club; Chrostowski and Richard Bond, then first selectman.
    Jim Bach had very little to do with it, only assisting in the fund drive that was already well underway,So your story’s statement that he and some town leaders led the effort is misleading and incorrect.
    Perhaps the confusion stems from Jim’s success in the installation of the foot bridge. The bridge was not part of the campaign for the restoration of the Gold Star Walk. It was undertaken as a separate project and it is a nice addition to the Gold Star Walk, which had been re-established long before Jim’s bridge.]

    • With any and all due respect, Ed, you’ve set the record no straighter than Ben already has—kindly see our existing thread—except that you’ve now thrown in your own name (with a few others).

      The rejuvenation to which you refer sadly failed in some ways—the nameplates have gone missing, several trees became decayed and overgrown with weeds. Where it succeeded, we now know, was in spotlighting the Gold Star Walk’s condition and kickstarting a fund for addressing the problem. People like Jim Bach have taken up the cause, and I’m not sure what you or others among the “old codgers” to whom you cutely refer hope to accomplish by minimizing their contributions.

      Surely the men who gave their lives in World War II deserve a rather more selfless treatment.

      Jim Bach has never sought us out for press coverage. In general, we have come across updates on this latest and rather substantial restoration of the walk at meetings of the Parks & Recreation Commission, Inland Wetlands Commission and Town Council, as those bodies came forward with their approvals. Jim Bach has been gracious enough to accommodate our requests for interviews throughout the process, bringing greater awareness to the Gold Star Walk—perhaps he should be commended rather than maligned.

      I would add here that, according to landscape architect Keith Simpson, the original plan for the Gold Star Walk had always been to include the second footbridge now being installed—something I don’t believe was part of this 2002-03 “rejuvenation,” as you described it.

      That said, we get it: A group that includes WWII veterans and others who knew personally the New Canaanites who perished in the war first flagged the condition of the Gold Star Walk and sought to restore it.

      Let’s please leave it there.

      As I said to Ben on the phone earlier today, my plan is to notify him when there’s a ribbon-cutting ceremony on this second footbridge and extension of the Gold Star Walk, and to let him weigh in through an interview for our story. Thank you for posting your comment.

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