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 the wind, and the blaring horn of the passing train as the conductor signals hello to the walkers.
Twenty-four years ago, no one would have predicted the popularity of the plaques that line the East Lyme Boardwalk. Over those years 1,911 plaques have been installed by the East Lyme Public Trust Foundation, each with its own unique story. The plaque donors have come from 28 different states across the nation and from two 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 Foundaton project -Bill and Fran Rinoski- are romantics, Board 1057 (at the request of Tony Terraciano) was put up in the snow on Valentine’s Day. “Tony loves Christine,” it stated and she said yes, right there on the Boardwalk. When the boardwalk was re-dedicated in 2016, the pair was there with their three 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 o this crescent shaped “dream” is Too All Who Pass Here – Peace.
Bill and Fran Rinoski have been the chairs of this Foundation fund-raiser for 24 years! When I asked Bill why there were willing to take on this project and continue with 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.
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 to other Foundation projects.