MANCHESTER – A young man’s appreciation of the early positive influences on his life turned into a lasting gift to his grade school.
Patrick Villandry, a senior at East Catholic High School, recently completed his Boy Scout Eagle Project, which will benefit students at nearby Assumption School.
He designed a memorial brick patio that was installed around the flagpole in front of the school, where students gather each schoolday morning to recite the pledge, pray and sing. It was dedicated in December.
Patrick, a 2011 graduate of Assumption School, said, “I wanted to do something that was long-lasting and would benefit my alma mater.”
In formulating his project, Patrick had hoped to come up with something that would be both challenging and rewarding.
“I started thinking about things that were positive influences in my life and wanted to come up with a project to celebrate those things,” he said.
“I’ve spent more than half my life with Assumption School,” said Patrick, who was a student there from kindergarten through eighth grade. “I wanted to give something back to my old school.”
He met with Assumption School principal Marguerite Ouellette to gather ideas.
“She wanted me to put in a small patio with a memorial bench in memory of Miss Pam Riddell.” Miss Riddell, who passed away in 2006, was an avid volunteer, devoted parishioner and faithful friend of the school.
Ms. Ouellette shared the idea with Bonnie Hallowes, a fifth-grade teacher who recently retired from Assumption.
“Once Mrs. Hallowes got wind of it, it grew a life of its own,” said Patrick. “We decided to make it larger and make the whole patio in memory of Pam Riddell and also [of] Jim Barry.”
“I had met both Pam and Jim a few times but I hadn’t known them well, although teachers and parents knew them both very well,” he said. “I really didn’t know Jim on a personal level but I know he was very influential in the running of the school and church. It wasn’t until after he passed that I became aware of all the things he had done.”
Mr. Barry, who died in 2013, was an active parishioner and was among the church’s first group of altar servers. He served on the school board and, among a host of other initiatives, established and led the school’s annual fund-raising golf tournament.
Many other people are memorialized or honored by engraved bricks that form the patio, which Patrick wanted “to be pleasing to the eye and functional to the student body.”
Patrick raised all funds necessary to purchase the materials and tools needed by selling engraved bricks through an appeal to families and members of Assumption School and Parish. He recruited friends from Boy Scouts and Assumption School to provide the labor required to install the patio.
He also worked with people he met through the Boy Scouts and the school to “ensure a high-quality job.”
Bob Giola, a parishioner and school parent who owns Giola Landscaping and Contracting Corp., provided an excavator to perform the digging.
“They were very helpful in making this project a reality,” said Patrick, who also recognized Earl Parent, a parishioner who shared his knowledge “in making sure the bricks went in [properly] and looked good.”
At the dedication ceremony, Scoutmaster Mark Milewski expressed pride and gratitude for the outstanding result and lauded the design, planning, organization and implementation that Patrick demonstrated through the project. Mr. Milewski, also an Assumption School graduate, said he was pleased that Patrick chose a project to benefit the school. Reflecting on his years at the school, he said it had provided him with great memories and a strong foundation for future success.
Months of planning, fund-raising and coordinating were followed by three weekends of physical labor in all kinds of New England weather.
At the dedication ceremony, students, faculty and parishioners watched solemnly as Patrick positioned the bluestone marker, which says, “Dedicated in grateful memory to Pam Riddell and Jim Barry who gave so much time and energy to benefit Assumption School.”
“The beautiful memorial patio will well serve Assumption students,” said Ms. Ouellette. “It will also serve to remind people of the importance of working together to support Catholic schools and realize that their efforts are genuinely appreciated.”