Belmont’s Gun Buyback Event This Saturday, May 31

In the wake of increasing incidents, nationally and locally, of accidental injuries and deaths from guns, the Belmont Religious Council, faith communities in town, the Belmont Police Department and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office have joined for a community Gun Buyback event on Saturday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belmont DPW Yard, 37 C St.

The Belmont event is modeled on recent successful gun buyback events held in other towns across Massachusetts and in other parts of the country, including one held in Arlington in September 2013.

Belmont Police officers and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office will be on hand to accept any and all hand guns, rifles, shotguns, assault weapons, BB guns and air guns, working or non-working, antique or modern, registered or not, and ammunition for safe storage, followed by disposal in accordance with state law.

A key aspect of the event is the “No questions asked! No identification required!” policy. Amnesty will be extended for gun law violations by residents traveling to the event. Firearms must be brought to the event with empty chambers, clips or magazines unattached, safeties on and in a carrying case, box or other container.

Those who bring in firearms will receive gift cards to local grocery stores, in the following amounts:

  • $25 for BB or pellet gun or inoperable firearm
  • $50 for a revolver, semi-automatic, shotgun, or rifle.
  • $100 for an assault weapon.

The Belmont Police Department has set up a special phone line to receive questions and requests for assistance in transporting firearms to the event: 617-993-2529.

Aided by the Religious Council, seven faith communities – All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Belmont, Belmont- Watertown United Methodist Church, Beth-El Temple, First Baptist Church of Belmont, The First Church in Belmont, UU, Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, and the St. Joseph and St. Luke Collaborative parishes – banded together to push for the program, which is supported by Belmont’s state legislators, State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers.

“In addition to removing unwanted firearms from homes, another benefit of the gun buyback is the dialogue that has developed among community members on how we can all work together to reduce gun violence in Belmont and beyond,” said Jean Dickinson, a member of the First Church in Belmont UU, who led the initiative.

Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said, “Personally, I feel that it is a very worthwhile voluntary program and an opportunity for our residents to dispose of unwanted firearms and ammunition, especially in light of some of the tragic situations we have seen throughout Massachusetts, the country and the world.”

“On average, more than 34,000 people are accidentally shot or commit suicide using a firearm each year. I believe that providing residents with a safe way to dispose of firearms they no longer want can help reduce these numbers,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.

“These buybacks also encourage dialogue among those involved about ways to make our communities safer.”

Several Belmont businesses have already stepped forward to make donations in support of the event. The Belmont Gun Buyback Committee invites other businesses and individuals to do the same. The Committee hopes to raise $5,000 to purchase grocery gift cards to be provided in exchange for firearms. Any leftover grocery gift cards will be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

Donations may be made by sending a check or money order payable to: Belmont UMC/Gun Buyback Program and mailed to: Belmont United Methodist Church, 421 Common Street, Belmont, MA 02478, or via pay pal on 

Post Season Schedule Set for Sprinters, Belmont Baseball, Tennis Teams

Three Belmont High School teams will be playing in the post season as Baseball and the Boys and Girls Tennis teams along with two exceptional sprinters on the track team received their tournament draws yesterday, May 27, from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Freshman Julia Cella is the favorite in the 200 meters – having run a season leading 26.07 – and a top contender in the 100 meters in the Div. 3 East track and field meeting taking place on Saturday, May 31 at Pembroke High School. She will also be anchoring the 4×100 meter relay ranked fourth in D3.  Joining her will be fellow freshman Rachel Berets in the 100 meter hurdles, the top 9th grader in the event. Junior Kayla Magno is a top eight threat in the 400 meters hurdles. Joining his teammates is junior Max Jones who has broken 23 seconds in the 200 meters and is rated 4th coming into the meet. Fellow junior Ari Silverfine dipped under 2 minutes in the 800 meters for a top 10 ranking this year.

Belmont High Baseball – which came out of the weekend’s Brendan Grant Tournament with a win and a loss – with a record of 11-9 has been seeded 9th in the Div. 2 North sections and will meet number 8 Beverly High School under the lights at Endicott College in Beverly on Friday, May 30 at 7 p.m. A win will see the Marauders head over to Gloucester on Saturday, May 31 to take on number 1 seed Gloucester High School.

The 8-8 Boys’ Tennis will be traveling to Topsfield to challenge the number 5 seed Masconomet Regional High School on Thursday, May 29 at 5:30 p.m. while Girls’ Tennis, with a record of 11-5 and co-champions of the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division, will host Tewksbury High School on Thursday, May 29 at 3:30 p.m. A Marauders victory will likely see a match between league co-champion Reading High School.

Things to Do Today: Schools Art Show Reception, Community Path Meets, Quintuplets Birthday

• The reception for the first K-12 Art Show featuring student work from the six Belmont public schools will take place at 6 p.m. Please join the artists and their families for this Opening Reception in the Belmont Gallery of Art, third floor of the Homer Building in the Town Hall complex.

• The Community Path Advisory Committee will be meeting at 7 p.m. in the Belmont Gallery of Art on the third floor of the Homer Building which is located in the Town Hall complex. They will be discussing releasing the committee’s final report on June 6 and the June 18 public forum.

Graduating seniors are going on their annual cruise this afternoon. A three-hour cruise!

• Eighty years ago today,  the Dionne quintuplets – Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie and Marie – were born in Quebec, the first quintuplets to survive infancy. In the 1930s, their popularity rivaled the biggest movie stars. Annette and Cécile are celebrating their 80th birthday today.

Honoring The 101 Who Laid Down Their Lives for Us

One hundred and one.

That is the number of Belmont men who have died in the nation’s wars since the First World War that began 100 years ago this August.

“They were sons, brothers and fathers. They had dreams and aspirations but their lives were cut short and their families saddened,” said retired US Army Col. and Belmont resident Leonid Kondratiuk at Belmont’s Memorial Day ceremony held at Belmont Cemetery.

“Several are buried here in this cemetery,” said Kondratiuk, who is director of the Massachusetts National Guard Military Museum in Worcester which keeps the military records of all from the Bay State who served the country. 

“None wanted to die but were willing to die in defense of the nation,” he said on Monday, May 26.

This year’s ceremony kicked off with the annual parade this year graced with a pretty Miss Bay State, Siobhan O’Keefe, four Harleys lead by veteran and Town Meeting mainstay Joe White, the Selectmen along with state Sen. Will Brownsberger, contingencies of the Police and Fire departments, a slew of scouts, the combined marching band of the High and Middle schools, a US Marine color guard and the big trucks from the DPW.

Leading the way was a small group of resident veterans with their own color guard, with some of the older “soldiers” given a ride from Cushing Square to Grove Street.

Along the route, families gathered as children cheered the groups, covering their ears when the fire trucks blew their horns. Many older men and women either removed their hats or saluted when Old Glory passed by.

At the cemetery, the names of the 101 residents who died in defense of the country were read, taps was played and a rifle salute was given.

“We often live our daily lives is blissful ignorance of the sacrifices that are the foundation of our freedoms,” said Andy Rojas, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen.

“Today, to affirm that we never forget, we honor all and thank you for all you have given,” Rojas said.

The day’s first keynote speaker, US Air Force ColThomas J. Killeen, chief of the Airspace Mission Electronics System Center at Hanscom AFB in Bedford, said that while Memorial Day is for remembering those who died in past wars, the nation continues to lose military personnel in Afghanistan and in missions around the world.

“We are also proud to the families that sacrificed so much. Long after the battlefield guns are silenced, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent, spouses will still be without their life partners and parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters who died way too early,” Killeen said.

“Let’s not forget the focus what Memorial Day means. It’s the day to remember.”

In Classic Match, Belmont High Rugby Falls Short in State Championship

The Belmont Way.

It’s playing the game of rugby in which players are “willing to make that ultimate effort, to play for your teammates,” said Greg Bruce, the head coach of the Belmont High School Rugby Club on a humid and warm Saturday, May 24 at Fort Deven minutes before the start of the Div. 1 state championship finals.

“There’s nothing left to say, boys. Total commitment, no excuses. Give everything you’ve got for something greater than you,” Bruce told his starting 15 in the pre-game huddle before another titanic clash with their familiar rival from Bishop Hendricken High School of Warwick, RI in a rematch of last year’s final in which Belmont defeated the Hawks, 17-5.

“Ready to do it?” he asked in his usual measured, almost serene manner.

“Yes, sir,” was the response.

And they were ready.

For more than 90 minutes, the two evenly-matched sides battled to utter exhaustion in a battle of wills and strength that bordered on an ancient epic struggle where the brute determination within the scrum was matched by wild, poetic downfield runs.

With the repeated challenge, “Come on, boys!” echoing from the sidelines, Belmont would overcame a two-try deficit and scored three times in the beginning of the final half.

Yet a pair of Belmont forays deep into Hendricken’s end in the final five minutes could not break the try (goal) line resulting in a 21-19 defeat which was praised by observers and fans of both teams as one of the great contests played by teams from New England in recent history.

“You gave it your all. We were down, we had (penalties), the odds against us, goal-line stances and you fought all the way back. Someone had to win. There was no shame in your effort,” said Bruce after the game to the team.

“Boys, you don’t get any better by playing the weak teams. That was a tough side and your all much better players for playing that game,” said assistant coach Derek Tommy.

“To see the level of play since we started the program eight years ago is impressive, not just with us but throughout the region,” Bruce told the Belmontonian after the game.

Belmont faced an uphill battle for nearly the entire match as only 90 seconds into the game, Hendricken revealed a mismatch down the left wing as a Hawk player reached the corner and sprinted more than 50 meters on a solo run for the first try of the day.

“That’s not exactly how we hoped to come out of the gates,” said Bruce.

It soon became apparent that Hendrickson would use their considerable bulk and strength advantages to punish the inside of Belmont’s forwards. Time and again, Hendricken players would drive into the heart of Belmont’s front line rather than push to the outside wings where Belmont had the edge with speed. Belmont was hurting its own cause with dropped passes and penalties allowing Hendricken to dictate how the game was played.

Just short in the second half 

On three separate occasions in the half, a Hendricken player broke through the Belmont defense to sprint towards goal only to be met by junior wing Luke Perrotta who made a trio of sensational solo tackles.

“He saved us in the first half,” said Bruce, noting the day before, Perrotta had asked him to stay behind after practice to work on open-field tackling.

“And to see him transfer the skill [during the game] that right now the hairs on my neck are standing up because I am so proud of him,” said Bruce.

Hendrickson’s second try came after a dubious play as a Hawk hit a prone senior open side flanker Dom Owens-Moore with a forearm that caused the ball to be taken deep in Belmont’s end that was pushed beyond the goal line.

Belmont began pushing forward into the Hawks end with senior Barrett Lyons carrying several Hendricken backs for nearly 30 meters on a memorable run down the opponent’s gut and captain Nick Pearson driving down the exposed wing.

Down 14 -0 at the half, Bruce quietly urged his team to ignore the score and take control of the game.

“It came down to the team’s mental focus, their ability to adjust and rally around one another,” said Bruce.

“They had a look across the 15 of them that they would not let this game be over.”

Bruce praised two long-time players, Darren Chan and Paul Campbell who, as halfbacks, are like the “quarterbacks” of the team, as they withstood the constant Hawk pressure in moving the balls around the pitch.

Winning the possession game from a tiring Hendricken squad allowed Belmont to push into the Hawks territory. Eleven minutes into the half, Belmont drove the ball over the try line for the first points with Campbell securing the conversion to make the score 14-7. A yellow card penalty to a strong Hendricken player allowed Belmont to secure the momentum which allowed Campbell to sneak across for a second trying in seven minutes to reduce the lead to 14-12.

But due to the try being made near the sideline, the conversion kick was at a very acute angle which Campbell barely missed.

Garnering a second wind, Hendricken quickly drove down the field for their only try of the second half to up their lead to 21-12.

With Belmont’s third try coming within the final 10 minutes to once again reduce the advantage to two, 21-19, it appeared that team would not have a chance to get close to scoring as they were left to defend their try line after another Hendricken drive. But stellar defense forced a turnover and Belmont drove down the pitch highlighted by a 40 meter dash from Pearson.

Yet that final try never came as Belmont was pushed out-of-bounds in the “red” zone and Owens-Moore was held up inside five meters of the try-line in the final five minutes. As the final whistle sounded, the two teams had little energy to celebrate or suffer defeat, leaving everything on the pitch.

“We were there. We had the chances but unfortunately we just couldn’t get over the try line. You really have to credit Bishop Hendricken, they are a hell of a team. We have lost three times in two years, each time to them,” Bruce said.

When asked who stood out in the game, Bruce said, “who didn’t?”

“These kids gave everything they had. The big thing we talked about to them as coaches (himself, Tommy, Jesse Borle and Adam Zilcoski) of coming to this game was a total commitment with no regrets. And I know right now they have no regrets. These kids committed themselves completely, to give very thing they had.”

“You saw them coming off the field, completely gutted, tanks empty. What else can you ask for from a bunch of 16, 17, 18 year olds? I’m really proud of them.”


Summer Leftover: Belmont Resident’s Book Set For HBO Treatment

You’ve read the book. Now see the television series.

Belmont’s Tom Perrotta’s 2011 novel “The Leftovers” about the aftermath of a random Rapture-like event (two percent of the world’s population just vanishes) on a small New York town is getting the cable network treatment as HBO premiers the television version of the book on Sunday, June 29, according to an article in the Sunday New York Times (May 25) by Lorne Manly (‘The Leftovers,’ About a Small Town’s Loss, Comes to HBO)

The book, which was the 2012 One Book One Belmont selection, is being brought to the wide-screen TV by Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, known for his work creating the ABC series “Lost” which dealt with many similar themes of coping within a mystery.

“[I]t is an intimate family drama that traffics in issues like faith and loss and grief and how to proceed after an enormous tragedy,” wrote Manly.

Watch the trailer of “The Leftovers” here.

Belmont High’s ‘Legally Blonde’ Nominated for Five State-Wide Awards

The Tony Awards – honoring Broadway’s best productions and actors – will take place on Sunday, June 8.

But it will be the next night that local theatergoers are focusing on as Belmont High School Performing Arts Company’s production of “Legally Blonde” directed and produced by Ezra Flam received five nominations from the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s (METG) Musical Theater Awards.

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Monday, June 9 at 7 p.m. at the Cutler-Majestic Theater in Boston. 

Belmont’s nominees are:

  • Best Supporting Actress: Caralyn Aufiero
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sam Korn
  • Best Specialty Ensemble: Julia Regier, Helena Kim and Isabelle Luongo
  • Best Featured Actor: Tyler Normile
  • Best Sound Design: Greg LaBombard, Kadra Lindmeier, Michelle Kornberg, Anna Makar-Limanov, Princy Sundurakar and Sam Casey

Last year, PAC’s production of “Grease” won three METG awards: Best Lighting Design, Best Lead Actor John Robert Scordino and Best Featured Actor Henry Dalby.

To provide some context, this year’s METG program had 47 high school entries compared to about 30 last year, with only a handful of schools received nominations in five or six nominations categories and just three schools received more than six.

Once again, Belmont High actors and production staff find themselves in very good company, recognized as putting on stage one of the best musical theater productions in Massachusetts. 

Things to Do Today: Meet Belmont’s New Vets Officer, Mosaic Work, Benton Stories

• Due to the Memorial Day holiday, garbage and recycling pickups are a day delayed. So if you thought you missed your “Tuesday” trash day, you can breath again.

• Join the new Belmont Veterans’ Services Officer Hsiu-Ann Tom at the Beech Street Center at 1:15 p.m. for an informational meeting about benefits for veterans, surviving spouses and dependents.

Pre-School Storytime will be held at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer run library, at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.

• Learn the timeless craft of mosaics at the Intergenerational Mosaic Workshop being held today, Wednesday and Friday at the Beech Street Center at 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. For residents 6 and older; a $5 fee for each class which is limited to 14 participants. Assemble small pieces of colored glass, stone, ceramics and shells to create decorative tiles, mirrors, picture frames. No experience necessary. Attend one or a series of three classes.

• Drop-in Vinyasa-style yoga classes, taught by professional instructors, at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 582 Pleasant St. starting at 9:30 a.m. All levels welcome. Bring your own mat. Free parking on Pleasant, Leonard, and in the Claflin Street Parking Lot behind Belmont Center. The classes take place in Gardner Hall, at the back of the church; enter the hall from Alexander Street entrance. $10 for the session. Child care available for $6 per child. All proceeds benefit Plymouth Nursery School. Also check out the Friday morning session.

• Today is the birthday of Julia Ward Howe in 1819 in New York City. In 1861, Howe – who was married to Samuel Gridley Howe, the founder of the Perkins School for the Blind – was inspired after visiting the new President Abraham Lincoln to write new words to the melody of “Ol’ John Brown’s Body.” The result was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She is buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Memorial Day: Loving Country, Comrades More Than Life Itself

By Len Abram

“Patriotism,” Samuel Johnson said to his friend and biographer Boswell in 1775, “is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” What Johnson had in mind was false patriotism, the sort of politician who runs the flag up the pole and while the citizens are saluting, the scoundrel fleeces them.

No one is sure if Johnson had in mind any person or state in his view of patriotism. It might have been the new American republic, whose rough birth Johnson observed with concern from London. Johnson disliked Americans for their treason against the English crown and Parliament. If the American colonists wanted self-government, he complained, let them move back to England. Besides, Johnson was an abolitionist ahead of his time. How could the colonists talk about liberty when they enslaved a people? The question bothered the Founders and many a patriot as well.

Johnson did not live to see the 1860s, to witness the former colonists suffering through a Civil War with 600,000 dead – a quarter of South’s young men – to purge country of the dreaded slavery. It is a tragedy of American life that the Founders, who created the most successful republic in human history, had not solved the predicament of slavery in 1776 or 1787.

In 1864, the price of union and emancipation was so high that until Lee’s surrender Lincoln worried that the public would demand a halt and compromise, which may have left the South and slavery in place. General Grant delivered to Lincoln victory.

The gavel in court may remind us that behind the law, not above it, but behind it, is force, the power to compel others to do what is right when they refuse. To carry out that terrible decree, we most often ask our young to bear the burden.

Navy Seals are required to swim 50 meters under water with one breath. An Army infantryman or a Marine on patrol carries 60 pounds in body armor and equipment, sometimes in 120 degree heat. That’s a young person’s game, so when there are casualties, the dead and the wounded, the loss is suffered twice, once for the individual and another for how his or her young life was cut short and unrealized.

At this time of year, between Memorial Day and July 4, Independence Day, between the beginning of the summer season and its hot midst, we celebrate patriotism, flags and fireworks. Love of country is unlike love of family or place or home. It is all of those, but greater, because it blends the personal with the abstract, ideas and ideals.

It’s about our country, what it stands for: Our rights as citizens are undeniable, granted not by men, but by the Almighty as the Founders conceived of the deity. Freedom is the natural order of the universe. We are born equal and free. Whatever our circumstances, often inherited, we are in charge of ourselves, to realize our own potential, to pursue our own happiness.

“What changed the immigrant into a new man a half hour after landing in New York City?” asked the 19th-century historian Henry Adams. We know. 

The Biblical prophet told us where we should go and what we should do. To embrace peace and turn dreadful weapons of war into farming tools, pruning hooks and plows. We are not there yet, though we try. Memorial Day honors those who have loved their comrades and their country more than life itself.

Abrams is a long-time Belmont resident whose short story, “Cup of Kindness”, appears in the third volume of “Fenway Fiction” an anthology about the Red Sox and Fenway Park. His first novel is in pre-publication.

Belmont’s Memorial Day Parade Kicks Off at 11 AM

Bands, marchers and veterans will all take part in the 2014 edition of Belmont’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony beginning at 11 a.m., Monday, May 26, on Trapelo Road adjacent to the municipal parking lot and Starbucks in Cushing Square.

Lining the route – up Trapelo Road before making a left at Grove Street and continuing to the Belmont Cemetery – will be families and residents cheering on the participants.

At the cemetery, speeches will be read, the names of Belmont citizens who died for this country will be honored, “Taps” played and a final salute will be given.

Veterans and current military personnel are invited and welcome to join the other vets at the head of the parade.