A Plaque for Willard
A much-loved and highly respected gentleman, Willard Taft, of 90 Dutcher Street, was honored
Saturday morning by this town. Taft, who is heading for his 92nd year, thought that he was attending
Saturday's unveiling of the monument commemorating the completion of the Parklands Nature Trail.
He was surprised to learn that the trail was being dedicated in recognition of his many years of
dedication as a park commissioner and for his love and concern for the Parklands and Hopedale
Pond, for the people who enjoy the area, and for the wildlife which find refuge there.
Taft candidly admitted he was sent into a state of shock when Selectman Chairman Al Sparling
presented him with a proclamation declaring Saturday, October 19, was to be observed as Willard
Taft Day in Hopedale. The morning sky was sunless and the wind was blowing heavily across the
pond as the guest of honor was surrounded by more than 30 town officials, relatives, friends and
neighbors who gathered to say thank you to Taft.
The dedication was sponsored jointly by the Board of Park Commissioners and the Hopedale
Foundation. A plaque on the monument reads, "Hopedale Parklands Nature Trail, dedicated to
Willard W. Taft for his many years of dedication in preserving this special landscape for the enjoyment
of all."The inscription is followed by a quotation from Thoreau's "Walden, the Ponds, 1854" - "If the
forest features of the landscape are to be named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest
Talking to Taft at his home following the dedication, he was still pretty much speechless. He admitted
that he was completely dumbfounded when he learned the dedication was being made in his honor.
"I saw that darn stone being brought into the Parklands' entrance and I thought to myself, "What darn
fool thing are they doing now," he said. Taft's Dutcher Street home is located in front of the pond and
entrance to the Parklands. He said he then proceeded to forget about it.
"I was so happy to see so many of my friends present. I didn't know anyone cared. I am fortunate to
have good friends," Taft said.
Taft, who is a twin, was born in Upton and spent his early years there. He also spent time in
with his aunt, the late Etta Lurvey. Because of family deaths, Willard moved to Texarkana and he
attended Texas A & M. He returned to Hopedale in 1928 to reside with his aunt who had, by that time,
moved to 90 Dutcher Street, the duplex Taft now owns.
Taft went to work in the Draper Corporation where his designing and organizational skills were put to
use. He received many words of commendation for his work there. His interest in the well-being of
people, especially youngsters, and in wildlife and nature-related issues, have always prevailed.
Taft taught many youngsters how to ski on the now non-existent ski tow and how to appreciate the
Parklands and the pond. His love is for natural beauty and its preservation. He served as a park
commissioner for several years, having retired from the political scene a couple of years ago.
His twin brother, Harold, who resides on Cape Cod, was unable to attend Saturday's dedication.
However, a cousin, Ken Wood of Upton, was present to share in his cousin's honor, as was Willard's
long-time friend, Carl Anderson, also of Upton.
Among the town officials present were Selectman and Hopedale Foundation director, Al Sparling,
Hopedale Foundation directors William B. Gannett and Peter Ellis, Park Commissioners Rick
Espanet, Bob Colcord and Mark Sesona, Commission on Disabilities chairman, Peter Ellis, Jr. and
Fire Chief David Bliss.
The sponsors of the dedication acknowledged the many people who contributed materials, time and
effort to make the event possible.
The granite block was donated by Kimball Sand & Gravel of Blackstone. The plaque was provided by
the Hopedale Foundation; landscaping design and materials were donated by Swift's Creative
The Highway Department and foreman, Bob DePonte, played an essential role in the effort, moving
the granite block to its present location.
A special note of thanks went to George Labadie, Taft's next-door neighbor, who was charged with
diverting Taft's inquisitive nature away from the covered granite. Milford Daily News, October 21, 1996.