As people walk the 1.1 miles of the East Lyme Boardwalk, they are able to ponder this gem of vintage Americana. One can see families strolling together, couples- old and new- holding hands, even people rehabbing from injuries as they welcome the waterside hand-hold and the many benches to rest and appreciate the view.
On clear days one can hear the wild cry of the sea gulls, the quiet lapping of the waves, the sometimes gentle rush of wind, and the blaring horn of the passing train as the conductor signals hello to the walkers.
Twenty four years ago, none of the members of The East Lyme Public Trust Foundation would have predicted the overwhelming popularity of the plaques that line the East Lyme Boardwalk. Over those years, 1911 plaques have been installed, each with its own unique story. The plaque donors have come from 28 different states across the nation and from 2 foreign countries. Connecticut towns are represented from north to south and west to east- from Windsor to Woodbury and Greenwich to Guilford.
However, it is the unique story behind every plaque that is captivating as they celebrate weddings, anniversaries, births, and graduations. They express Loss, Sorrow, Laughter and Contentment. Because the Co-chairs of this project- Bill and Fran Rinoski- are Romantics, Board 1057, at the request of Tony Terraciano, was put up in the snow one Valentine’s Day-Tony loves Christine. She said yes, right there on the Boardwalk. When the Boardwalk was re-dedicated in 2016, they were there with their 3 children!
One woman explained that she forced herself not to look at the plaques until she had finished the first half of her walk. Then, she would allow herself to turn seaward to read some of the plaques as she returned to her starting point. Many of the inscriptions indicate what the Boardwalk has meant to people: The Perfect Walk, A Tiny bit of Heaven, Smell the Ocean Air, Walk the Path in Silence. The one that best reflects the mood of this crescent shaped “dream” is To All Who Pass Here- Peace.
Bill and Fran Rinoski have been the chairs of this fundraiser for 24 years! When I asked Bill why they were willing to take on this project and continue with it for such a long time, he said, “I believed in the Boardwalk from the beginning…and I wanted to make this dream come true. I signed up to see this project through to the completion of the re-built Boardwalk.” Every town should have volunteers with this dependability and perseverance.
Years from now, Historians will look to these plaques as a window into the heart of a small town community at the beginning of the Twenty first Century.
For a $100 tax-deductible contribution, become part of that permanent history by sponsoring a plaque with your own memory engraved, to be placed on the re-constructed Boardwalk. All funds raised by the sponsorship of the plaques are used to contribute to the maintenance of the Boardwalk and other Foundation projects.
Application forms are available at:
East Lyme Town Hall-Town Clerk’s Office, East Lyme Parks and Rec. Dept., East Lyme Library, and the E.L. Book Barn.
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