Middleboro Shuts Down the Lights Anyway

We thought this fight was over. Evidently not.

Middleboro’s Board of Selectmen has voted to ban Christmas lights on a spruce tree in a town park that was donated in memory of a World War I Medal of Honor winner. The tree was decorated last year by a woman who organizes the town’s Christmas festival. But the man who donated tree in memory of Patrick Regan, a World War I veteran, said decorating the tree was disrespectful and it was never intended to be “a Santa Claus” tree.

A few weeks ago a hearing was held to hear the complaints of veterans and others who opposed the lights. When no one showed up it was reported that the issue was resolved and that the lights would go up. But Selectmen voted 3-2 on Monday to ban lights on the tree. It turns out that feelings on the matter ran deeper than first reported and that differing parties had to be silenced at the town meeting yesterday to get the vote done.

“My family donated the tree as a living memorial, I never thought in my whole life it would be a Santa Claus tree … It’s a living memorial, not a Christmas tree.” said Robert Lessard, who opposed lighting the tree.

Caught in the middle of the controversy was the town organizer of Christmas festivities, Muriel Duphily. ” I don’t understand what’s the big issue,” she said. She held up pictures of her father, brothers, an uncle and an aunt and said the lights were never meant to disrespect veterans. “Think of the things I’ve done for the American Legion over the years,” Duphily said. “I never did this as disrespectful”

Selectman Stephen J. McKinnon, a disabled Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era, said the downtown looked like Pottersville before Duphily’s effort to instill the Christmas spirit, “It was dismal.”

McKinnon said Duphily brought people together and transformed the downtown.

“A lot of people had a good time, there was music, Santa, and the kids were enthralled. That’s one of the things I fought for,” he said.

“Let’s not light the tree. Let’s look for other decorations,” countered Selectman Steven P. Spataro. “I’m not going to turn the town upside down. The majority feel the tree does not need to be lit.”

It should be noted that the town is looking for an alternative tree and other arrangements for a festive display this holiday season. After the meeting, Paul L. Kreitzberg, treasurer of the Park Committee, said the committee’s offer to buy an alternative tree is still on the table. “We’ll stand by the offer, if asked we’ll get a tree.”

“Unless someone comes up with a tree, I’m quitting,” said Duphily after the vote. “You can’t have a tree lighting ceremony without a tree. If they want to be a corporate sponsor, gladly I’ll do it. We need to make this happen.”

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