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Lowell Week in Review: April 21, 2018

Earth Day Parade 2017 in Lowell

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day which marks the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Lowell will celebrate with a downtown Earth Day Parade and Festival. The pre-parade activities begin at 11:30 am at Lowell National Park Visitor Center and the parade kicks off at 12:30.

In the past, the route has proceeded from the Visitor Center, up Shattuck Street, right on Merrimack, right on Central, and left on Warren to the parade’s end at United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) at 35 Warren Street where the festival will continue until 4 pm.

The parade will feature marching bands, puppets, costumers and environmental groups. Event leaders, which include UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, and dozens of partner organizations, invite families and individuals to show up and join in the parade.

Prof Mary Murphy of University College Cork

Lowell: City of Learning

To coincide with Earth Day this year, more than 50 organizations have joined together to launch the first-ever Festival of Learning in Lowell. Its purpose is to highlight the many opportunities for learning in the city, not just in classrooms but in countless settings across the community.

The driving force behind this effort is UMass Lowell political science professor John Wooding who hopes the Lowell Festival of Learning will lead to the city’s designation as the first UNESCO-designated Learning City in the United States.

The Learning Festival began Thursday night with a reception and lecture at the Mayor’s Reception Room at City Hall. In his opening remarks, Mayor William Samaras said Lowell has a great heritage of learning outside the walls of the classroom, citing the 100-year old Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series and the work of Dr. Patrick Mogan who called Lowell an “educative” city.

A delegation from Cork, Ireland, a current UNESCO City of Learning, was on hand to support Lowell’s effort, so Mayor Samaras was followed by John O’Halloran, the Deputy President of University College Cork, who urged Lowellians to aggressively pursue this opportunity and who explained that the people of Cork realized that learning happens in many places, both formal and informal. Embracing these opportunities makes “good people and good citizens.”

After the opening remarks came a lecture by Professor Mary Murphy of University College Cork’s political science department. The topic was “What Brexit Means for Ireland.” It was a fascinating review of the political, social, historic and economic repercussions of Brexit for the Republic of Ireland which will remain in the European Union and for the six counties of Northern Ireland which will accompany the United Kingdom out of the EU.

In the coming days I’ll write a separate post about Professor Murphy’s lecture, but she closed by placing the Brexit vote in the larger context of movements now sweeping Europe and the United States that speak to those “left behind by globalization.”

Richard Howe leading Lowell Walks tour along Pawtucket Canal

Other events that were part of the Festival of Learning included a panel discussion on the sustainable urban university; a bike maintenance workshop; a Lowell Walks history tour (led by me); a screening of the Lowell High documentary, “Days of Division;” a screening of the film, “Seed: the Untold Story;” a group bike ride; the Cambodian New Year Celebration; and today’s Earth Day parade.


Next Friday kicks off ArtWeek here in Lowell and across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Launched in 2013 by the Boch Center as a Boston-based celebration of creativity, the event expanded statewide in 2017.

In 2018, Lowell will be a full participant in ArtWeek with a dozen events including Lowell Walks tours on Saturday, April 28 and on Sunday, April 29, both at 1pm from Lowell National Park Visitor Center. The topic of both walks is City Hall Monuments. The 90-minuted guided walk will visit the many civic and ethnic monuments on the grounds of and in the immediate vicinity of Lowell City Hall.

Also included in ArtWeek is Lowell’s annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration which takes place Saturday, April 28 from 6 to 10 pm at Ecumenical Plaza (282 Suffolk Street). Launched last year as one of the most exciting new events in Lowell, Points of Light allows attendees to decorate floating water lanterns that are then launched into the Western Canal as darkness falls. Throughout the celebration, musical and dance groups will provide entertainment and businesses and cultural groups will sell food and treats, all in the heart of the Acre neighborhood.

Marie Sweeney with co=bloggers (from left) Paul Marion, Richard Howe and Tony Accardi

Honoring Marie Sweeney

On Friday, April 27, 2018, at 6 pm, The Brush Gallery & Studio will honor Marie Sweeney for her service to Lowell’s cultural community. The event will feature a panel discussion with Marty Meehan, president of University of Massachusetts; Lewis Karabatsos of the Lowell Historical Society; Janet Leggat, former director of Lowell Festival Foundation; and Karen Frederick of Community Teamwork. Entertainment will be provided by Ralph Funaro and by Fermata Nowhere, a UMass Lowell women’s a capella group. Tickets are available online.

Lowell: A Greater Gateway

Over the past several months, the city of Lowell has joined with Urban Planning students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to conduct research and community outreach to help suggest ways to make Lowell a more welcoming place for all, especially new immigrants and refugees.

On Monday, April 23 from 6 to 8 pm at the Lowell Senior Center at 276 Broadway, the students will showcase their work in a science fair-style event that will include an overview of the group’s research in housing, transportation, the environment, urban design, economic development and more. The event is free and open to the public.

Crisis in Cameroon

Fru Nkimbeng provided a recent update on the crisis in his native Cameroon which is located in Central Africa. Once a German colony, Cameroon was divided between the French and the British after World War I. While Cameroon achieved independence in the late 20th century, the French/English division persisted, not only linguistically, but also legally and politically. The divide has grown worse in recent years as the French-speaking majority has systematically oppressed the English-speaking minority.

Many Lowell residents are from Cameroon or are descendants of Cameroons. In 2002, Lowell became a sister-city of Bamenda, the leading city in the English-speaking portion of the country. In 2017, the Lowell City Council passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses by the Cameroonian government. More recently, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution condemning the human rights record of the French-speaking government in Cameroon.

On Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 6pm at UTEC at 35 Warren Street, the Southern Cameroons of New England will hold a fundraiser for refugee support. The main speaker at this event will be Professor Patrice Nganang of Princeton University, a Cameroonian-American writer, poet and social activist.

Eileen Donoghue, Steve Panagiotakos, Phil Shea – 3 former state senators from Lowell in 2014.

City Manager Donoghue

With no city council meeting this past week, City Manager Eileen Donoghue had some extra time to prepare for her first council meeting which will be this coming Tuesday night, April 24. The agenda for that meeting includes a number of votes by the council including one related to the land swap with the National Park Service for the Hamilton Canal District, several subcommittee reports, and nine council motions. Check back here on Monday morning to read Mimi Parseghian’s council meeting preview.

Lowell High seems to have grabbed much of Donoghue’s attention since becoming City Manager ten days ago. Back on April 12, she attended the community meeting on the new Lowell High project at which she gave an update on the field house gas leak that cause the school to close to students for three days right before April vacation. Then Friday there was a City Hall press conference on that same topic. According to the Lowell Sun, Donoghue announced that the three gas heating units in the field house will be replaced with new units at a cost of $255,000. The work will be done after school hours and may take up to seven weeks to complete.

The Sun also reported that there will be a public meeting of the city’s School Building Committee on Monday, April 30 at which the three downtown high school options will be reviewed, and that the city council is expected to vote on the recommendation of the local School Building Committee the following night at the May 1st Lowell City Council meeting.


Thanks for reading. This year I’m running for reelection as Register of Deeds of the Middlesex North District. Please consider making an online donation to help my candidacy.

Dick Howe

Remembering Barbara Bush by Marjorie Arons-Barron

Getty Images

It was June 1990, Severance Green at Wellesley College. Blue sky, warm sunshine, graduating seniors and their families waiting to hear from two commencement honorees, Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and Barbara Bush, First Lady, wife of President George H. W. Bush. Local press and national networks were there to cover the event.

The following weekend, at the very same place, I would attend my class reunion, but on June 1st, I was at commencement in my role as WCVB-TV editorial director, to provide commentary to anchors Natalie Jacobson and Chet Curtis.  I had just returned from a month in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, where, with editorialists from some of the nation’s leading newspapers and networks, we had interviewed government and opposition leaders, students and labor activists.

It was a time of optimism. The Berlin Wall had come down, and the unified city was holding its first elections. Soviet puppet governments were overthrown. In Moscow, we watched as Boris Yeltsin was named head of the Russian Supreme Soviet.   In Bucharest, we visited polling places as Romanians waited hours in line to choose a replacement for dictator Nicholae Ceaucescu.  And at Wellesley, 150 students were protesting that Barbara Bush should not be speaking because she was simply being recognized due to the achievements of her husband. But she was more than that, as we often saw when she differed publicly from her husband’s positions on social issues like abortion and gay rights.

Bush didn’t dodge the feminist dilemma raised by Wellesley’s protesters. The woman whose children called her “the enforcer” spoke of the importance of family as a foundation of society. She spoke of her work on literacy and her belief that the ability to read was step one in solving the world’s problems.  She urged graduating seniors to cherish their human connections, without which  life had little meaning.

In words that mean even more to me today, she said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.”

There was, she said, no one right path to fulfillment as a woman. At the end she won them all over when she said, “Who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse, and I wish him well.” She received a standing ovation.

Gorbachev, a former college professor, who had taken a career path, spoke about the mission of “peacemaking, humanism, mercy and kindness” and promoting understanding among nations.

The messages of the homemaker/volunteer and the professor/career woman were not that different. But behind the scenes, there was another story, told to me by a college administrator. Wellesley had prepared refreshments for the two women. Gorbachev, the woman from a self-proclaimed classless society, refused to partake in the same room as her staff.  Bush, the matriarch of an American dynasty, happily shared arrangements with hers.

In the wake of her death, we hear Barbara Bush praised for her “authenticity.”  Substitute the words “down to earth,” which is yet another reason she was widely admired.  She was a woman in her own right, not just an appendage to her powerful husband of 73 years.

Lowell in World War One: April 8, 1918 to April 19, 1918

This is the 51st installment of my Lowell in World War One series which commemorates the centennial of the entry of the United States into World War One. Here are the headlines from one hundred years ago for the past two weeks:

April 8, 1918 – Monday – Germans massed for another drive on wide battle front in France. British and French lines in Northern France attacked. Intensive German fire south of Somme and north of Scarpe. British and Japanese troops at Vladivostok. Landing of forces promises to cause the state department much concern. Buy Liberty Bonds and back up the army. Subscriptions to the third Liberty bond campaign are coming in at a gratifying rate. On the whole the first day was a success and about one-sixth of the city’s entire quota was raised in the first 24 hours. Frank Siamao held on murder charge. Alleged that he killed Adao Defreitus Bremo in knife fight on South Common. An argument that started in a liquor saloon Saturday night, was followed by a pre-arranged battle of fists and subsequently knives on the South common, and resulted in the death of one man and the imprisonment of another. Bremo, aged 26, lived at 513 Gorham street while Siamao, a 39 year old laborer, lived at 318 Central street.

April 9, 1918 – Tuesday – Fate of Europe and of Liberty depends on success against the drive, says Lloyd George. British Premier speaking in Parliament declares Cambrai battle a very trivial event when compared with recent battle. German guns are roaring in thunderous tones along 100 mile fron in France. 20,000,000 subscribers to new Liberty loan. Secretary McAdoo calls for that number of purchases. Would mean loan of 4 or 5 billions. Lowell’s liberty loan total mounts fast: more than one–third of the city’s original quota has already been subscribed. Lowell men arrested for failing to register. Vrasidas Koronakos, Kazimeras Majlockas, Jargis Balzonis and another were arrested by United States officer Andrew Cardwell and members of the local police this morning on warrants alleging that they had failed to register for the draft. Officer Caldwell has been investigation conditions in Lowell, especially among the foreign residents, and has gathered information that may lead to more arrests.

April 10, 1918 – Wednesday – Germans attacking on 130 mile front. American reinforcements in battle. Leaders oppose conscription in Ireland. Big patriotic meeting at State Armory. Speakers electrify audience. Rally under the auspices of National Security League. The speakers were David I. Walsh, Prof. Albert Bushnell Hart, and Prof E. D. Adams. Liberty bond drive in full swing here. The city’s total contributions in this third drive has reached nearly two million dollars. Elect Chief Marshal for Memorial Day. Dr. Charles B. Sanders was elected chief marshal of the Memorial Day parade at a Memorial Day Committee meeting which included representatives from GAR Posts 42, 120, and 185.

April 11, 1918 – Thursday – British evacuate Armentieres. Fierce counter attacks by British in attempt to halt Hun advance. Germans push on towards key point in British line in Flanders. Huns hurled back in disorder by Yankees. Heaviest German effort yet made against Americans. More restrictions on mail to soldiers. In order to mail anything to a soldier, the soldier must first ask for the item you are sending and receive his commanding officer’s consent. Then you may take that written request to the post office along with the item to be shipped and it will be accepted. The purpose of this new rule is to limit items mailed overseas to essentials.

April 12, 1918 – Friday – Germans pushing wedge deeper into British lines near Bethune. British handing on to great bulk of Messines Ridge. Plan for agreement on Irish question. Sir Horace Plunkett says convention laid foundation. Expected immediate legislation.

April 15, 1918 – Monday – Germans take Neuve Eglise after terrific drives against British lines on Lys front. British withdraw after beating off attack after attack. Haig’s men hold out at all other points and improve positions by counter attacks. High school teacher joins Naval Reserve. From teacher of Greek to seaman in the naval reserve is the novel change which Joseph G. Pyne of the high school faculty will soon make. Pyne as taught since 1912 and is one of the most popular teachers at the high school. For the past few seasons he has also coached the football team. Dr. T G Waller received several interesting souvenirs from his son, First Lieutenant Schuyler Waller of the 101st engineer train in France. A German helmet, a portion of a 17-inch German shell, and a piece of a German airplane were among the war tokens which arrived.

April 16, 1918 – Tuesday – Germans capture Bailleul. British forced back by fresh Hun troops. Heavy enemy attack repulsed by British. Secretary Baker home after visit to war zone. Good news for parents of Lowell soldiers. The Corporal John McDermott who was reported killed in France was not a Lowell man as had been feared. He has been identified as a member of the 102nd Infantry and his home was in Connecticut. Four courts in session in Gorham Street. The local court house in Gorham street was the scene of much legal activity today, there being four courts in session, namely, supreme judicial, superior civil with jury, uncontested probate, and contested probate courts.

April 17, 1918 – Wednesday – British withdraw from Ypres. Forward positions given up and new line to the west occupied. Lowell soldier injured. Private Joseph Gagnon of Battery F, son of Mr and Mrs Hercule Gagnon of 503 Fletcher street, is home on a ten day furlough after spending several months in France. The young man is suffering from fractures of both ankles and his condition is much impaired. During training, Gagnon was riding an untrained horse bareback when the horse was startled and threw him which is when he broke his ankles. Mayor Perry Thompson appointed a committee on physical instruction for Lowell today. The goal is to get every man, woman and child in Lowell to engage in daily physical exercise. The reason for this is that many believe the country will not reach its full war potential unless everyone is in tiptop shape.

April 18, 1918 – Thursday – British halt German advance. Huns fail to gain despite heavy attacks on the Lys Front. Navy League official comes to Lowell. Former Lowell boy looks over yard situation and conducts wool investigation. John C Percival supervises the purchase of all woolen yarn for the Navy league, a 13 year old organization that promotes the health and welfare of members of the Navy which includes providing them with woolen comfort garments. Liberty Loan entreaty from the trenches. E. A. Kennedy, a former Lowell boy, but now in the trenches as a sapper with the Telephone Signal Corps of the Royal Engineers, has sent an open letter to the people of Lowell asking them to support the men on the firing line by buying Liberty bonds. Patriots Day programs in the schools. Exercises in observance of the third Liberty loan formed the principal feature of the Patriots day exercises in the schools of the city today.

April 19, 1918 – Friday – Huns completely checked. Tide turns and British front is now more secure than it has been in days. Mail for soldier boys: At the urging of the Lowell Trades & Labor Council, Senator Weeks has made inquiry into restrictions on the amount of mail that may be sent to soldiers in France. Major General March, acting chief of staff, responded that a critical shortage of shipping requires that items most necessary to fighting be given priority. Enemy owned magneto plant seized. The government has taken over the big plants of the Bosch Magneto Co at Springfield, Mass, and at Plainfield NJ and directors will be named by Alien Property Custodian Palmer. Private Arthur Lyons of Co E, 39th Engineers, son of Mr and Mrs Richard Lyons of 48 Prospect street, has been wounded in France. Annual reunion of the Old Sixth Regiment was held today in Memorial Hall and of the 55 surviving members of the organization, 22 were present.  Morey Grammar School wins athletic meet. Big crowd witnesses annual grammar school meet on the South Common.

April 19, 1861: The Baltimore Riot

Mural of Baltimore Riot of Apr 19, 1861 at Massachusetts State House

On this day 157 years ago, April 19, 1861, two young men from Lowell, Luther Ladd and Addison Whitney, were killed by hostile fire while serving in the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, making them, and two of their comrades – Sumner Needham of Lawrence and Charles Taylor of Boston – the first soldiers to die by hostile fire in the American Civil War.

Luther Ladd

Addison Whitney

The war would claim 725,000 lives, but because Ladd and Whitney were the first to die, the city of Lowell and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would preserve their memories with a monument in front of Lowell City Hall, a monument that bears their names – the Ladd & Whitney Monument.

Here’s what happened:

After the South Carolina militia attacked and forced the surrender of the U.S. Army’s Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for the northern states to mobilize 75,000 volunteer troops to come to Washington to help put down the rebellion. Although the United States had a regular army in existence, it was small and scattered at frontier outposts around the west, so Lincoln had to depend on state militia units, the National Guard of the day.

Among the first units to mobilize was the Sixth Regiment which was based in Lowell and contained 214 men from the city in its ranks. Traveling to Washington, DC, by train, as the regiment passed through Baltimore, a city with strong pro-Southern sympathies, the soldiers found their way blocked and were forced to dismount from the railroad cars and march through the city.

A large, angry crowd assaulted the men from Massachusetts, first with stones and bricks and then with gunfire. The men of the Sixth Regiment fired back. In the melee, Ladd, Whitney, Needham and Taylor were all killed and two dozen of their comrades were wounded. The soldiers returned fire, killing twelve of the rioters and wounding countless others.

After the fight, the survivors of the Sixth boarded a train for Washington and reached the city that afternoon, making them the first Northern troops to reach the national capital which was until then, was undefended and vulnerable to capture by Southern forces.

Ladd & Whitney Monument

The bodies of Ladd and Whitney were returned to Lowell where they were buried in Lowell Cemetery after a funeral that saw the largest gathering in the city’s history. Four years later, on June 17, 1865, the Ladd & Whitney Monument was dedicated, and the bodies of the two men were exhumed from the cemetery and reburied alongside the monument that bears their names.

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