When Lisa Ceoffe was growing up in Lawrenceville, her parents, Anthony and Mary Ann, spent many weekends tending to the Doughboy monument.
“They spent decades organizing volunteer events, fundraising, restoring, landscaping, weeding and mulching this monument,” Ceoffe said. “My father placed flags and maintained this area well into his 70s. He could be seen down here weed-whacking on Sunday mornings after church.”
Last year on Memorial Day weekend, the statue that Ceoffe’s parents had spent much of their lives maintaining was vandalized with red paint.
This year, with both of her parents deceased, Ceoffe went to the statue in late April to get it ready for Memorial Day. That was when she realized it was the statue’s centennial.
“I know my parents, if they were alive today, would want to celebrate in some way to mark the centennial,” she said.
On Sunday, May 30, 100 years after the Doughboy was first dedicated, more than 200 people turned out to mark its centennial, with a bugler playing taps, a VFW rifle salute, speeches and two proclamations from Mayor Bill Peduto (one for the statue and another to dedicate a day to the late Anthony and Mary Ann Ceoffe).
“It’s just a testament to the love that people have for Lawrenceville and country,” Ceoffe said. “I am just blown away by how fast everything came together.”
The Doughboy was paid for in 1919 with $10,000 raised by the community. As Tom Powers and Jim Wudarczyk from the Lawrenceville Historical Society note in the society’s most recent newsletter, the statue, which was designed by Allen George Newman, was cast standing in a natural pose, similar to that of Michelangelo’s “David” of 1504. But rather than looking relaxed as Michelangelo’s “David” does, they noted that The Doughboy’s stance is one of “battle-weary fatigue.”
The community came together again after World War II to redesign the plinth (the base of the statue), which raised the monument higher and was ringed with plaques containing the names of all of the men and women who served in WWI and WWII from Lawrenceville and Polish Hill.
“It’s not only the names of those who did not come home,” Peduto said at the event. “It’s the names of those who didn’t come home the same.”
Those names, he noted, also represent the families who make up the fabric of the neighborhood.
The statue has been restored since the vandalism of last year.
“For those of you who think you can cancel or ruin this special spirit that we have with paint or hate, I’m here to remind you, you’re powerless, because we cherish our past,” Ceoffe said. “We recognize and honor the contributions from the people of this community. And we will never forget where we came from. We are eternally thankful for their service.”
Lawrenceville United has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the Doughboy Statue Centennial Fund to help pay for additional lighting, maintenance and landscaping around the monument.