Scituate eighth-grade student Brendan Barry said he regularly walks on the Sergeant Michael J. Kelley memorial bridge that spans the North River on the Scituate/Marshfield line, yet never really knew about the man to whom it was dedicated.
Yet when the time came for the eighth grader to choose a community service project – part of his job as an eighth grade ambassador to Governor Deval Patrick's Project 351 service initiative, it didn’t take much time to figure out what to do.
“Brendan decided to landscape an area on the Scituate side of the bridge, right off of the parking area where we could put a sign and replant the original Veteran's Rose that was planted for the dedication in 2006,” said Paul S. Barry III, Brendan’s father.
With the help of and with donations from Kennedy Country Gardens, Brendan was able to transform a small section of the bridge, bringing renewed life to the area.
“I just emailed [Chris Kennedy] and we had a meeting…and he said he’d help. He’s just gone way above and beyond anything we asked,” Brendan said.
Not only did Kennedy donate all the plants, he helped design the area, loaned the tools for the project, and even did some of the digging.
“Brendan just asked if he would donate a couple bushes, and he gave all of this, helped Brendan design, provided all the tools,” said Michelle Barry, Brendan’s mother.
The plants were installed in two weekends in April, and the sign – done at a discounted price by David Hassan from Hassan Sign in Cohasset - will be put in place on May 27 in honor of Memorial Day.
The finished area will have a small, planted garden near the parking area complete with the sign detailing aspects about Sergeant Kelley’s life – a National Guard Army veteran from Scituate who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan.
“Since he died for our country and our freedom, [I felt] that we should honor him,” Brendan said, looking over the newly planted shrubs on a foggy May day. “The sign has a bit of information about him, when the bridge was dedicated originally, and that he passed away in a war and a bit about him.”
According to Brendan, he got all the information about the sergeant from Kelley’s parents, who were very involved in the process.
“They came out here when we were digging and gave me this bracelet, that connected me to the project even more,” Brendan said, as he held up a silver band wrapped around his wrist, the name of Michael J. Kelley faintly etched into the metal.
According to Michelle, it was important that the Kelleys be a part of the process.
“The reason why we called them was we didn’t want to put something in that they didn’t approve of. So every step of the way, even what Brendan decided to write on the sign, he had Mr. and Mrs. Kelly look at it and make sure that they were ok with what it said,” Michelle said.
Donald Knapp, the veterans officer for Scituate, also gave his blessing for the project.
For Kennedy, helping out with the project was an easy decision, especially after seeing the dedication Brendan has to helping others, given his own disabilities.
Though Brendan was born with congenital glaucoma, and has been visually impaired since birth, he was never deterred in his efforts.
“It’s impressive for a kid that has had like 40 eye surgeries, and he’s thinking about others and not himself… it’s nice to connect the dots, tell the story, and tell people there are people dying for us. And this kid was strong enough to put that together,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he had initially helped with the dedication ceremony done in the late 2000s, and immediately said yes to helping out a second time.
For more information on Brendan’s project, visit his blog.