By Tim Binnall
A sizeable bronze sword that had been stolen forty years from a statue in a Massachusetts city was finally returned this week by the remorseful man who took it when he was a college student. According to a local media report, the pilfered piece had once been a part of a century-old monument to Revolutionary War general William Shepard in the city of Westfield. At some point in 1980, the sword mysteriously vanished and, oddly enough, its disappearance was only noticed about a year later.
Although the sword was subsequently replaced with a replica, the question of who took the piece and what became of it was something of a local mystery until an unnamed individual came forward last month with a story to tell. Cindy Gaylord of the city's historical society explained that she was contacted by a man who said that "he was in possession of something that belonged to Westfield and he wanted to return it." After a few furtive phone calls, the mysterious stranger eventually unburdened himself and revealed his role in the sword's disappearance.
The man recounted to Gaylord how he had been a college student living in the city back in 1980 and, during a night of drunken revelry with some friends, managed to pry the rather heavy sword from the statue using "brute strength." As often happens after such hazy evenings, he woke up the next morning with the stolen object and immediately regretted what he had done. Likely fearing that he would get in trouble, the then-young man kept the sword and it stayed in his possession for the next forty years eventually winding up in storage with some family belongings.
It was only recently, when he and his sister were going through those packed-away objects that he stumbled upon the sword and memories of his youthful misadventure came flooding back along with a considerable amount of remorse. Specifically, the man expressed to Gaylord a deep sense of shame because "here I am, a decorated veteran, and I've done this to another veteran." Fortunately, his conscious as well as the spirit of General Shepard can now rest easy as the sword was handed over to the Historical Society earlier this week and, instead of being chastised for what he had done so long ago, the man was praised for doing the right thing and returning the lost piece.