HERMAN BECKER HIGHWAY DEDICATED

These are excerpts from a speech made by Todd Becker at the dedication ceremonies held Oct. 4, 2003.

"My father's part in this story begins over 45 years ago, on January 28, 1958 -- the very evening of my brother John's birth in Putnam, Connecticut. After my mother did all the work delivering their first son, my father, Herman, was watching the evening news when the broadcaster announced that the Connecticut Turnpike extension, which ended at Route 6 in Danielson, was to be connected to the Mass. Turnpike by way of Putnam, Woodstock, Southbridge and Sturbridge at Exit 11. An hour later, Herman told everyone present at the Webster-Dudley Chamber of Commerce meeting of the state's plan, and asked members to work together to get the connector through Webster and Oxford.

Their first official act was three days later, when then Chamber president, Alexander Joyce, sent a letter to Mr. McLean of the Mass. Turnpike Authority. I'd like to read that letter to you -- "At a meeting of the Webster-Dudley Chamber of Commerce held on January 28, 1958, it was unanimously voted that our organization urge your consideration of Exit 10 at Auburn and Route 12, 193, 21 and 6 as the suitable connecting links between the Massachusetts and Connecticut Turnpikes. Furthermore, that turnpike maps be revised to show Routes 193 and 21. Those routes are presently omitted. Discussion at our meeting indicated that a saving of 13 miles and approximately 30 minutes would result from the use of these routes, which mainly bypass the business sections of communities between the two highways. Your review of this would be appreciated."

The Chamber of Commerce then pressed their case by forming the "Short Link Committee" which was led by my father, Herman, and Bob Harris - who is also here today. In an article written by Ed Patenaude for the Telegram and Gazette in 1994, when my dad retired after serving as Secretary of the Chamber for thirty years, my father is quoted as saying, "Construction of Interstate 395 through Webster and Oxford is the single most important thing that has happened in the towns in the last 35 years. The road split the old poor farm in Webster and the land became important as an industrial park. It brought a lot of tax base and created jobs." - referring to the Webster Industrial Park off Exit 2, which became another important project that became possible by the Connector and was led by Bob Harris and my father in the mid-60's.

Getting back to the 395 connector, the committee members and many other folks worked tirelessly and relentlessly over the next thirty years to achieve their shared vision of a town connected to the lifeblood of the region's economy through this important interstate link. Even my grandfather, Thomas Bellerose, and mother, Shirley, got involved, as they rallied Connecticut Governor John Dempsey in support of the project. It turns out that my mother and her sister, Marie, often baby-sat the Governor's grandchildren as neighbors on South Main St. in Putnam, while my grandfather was an Alderman when the Governor was Mayor. Importantly, the distinguished Senator Richard Moore of Massachusetts, who was then a representative, also worked tirelessly and relentlessly on the project, which finally succeeded in 1978, when the highway was officially opened on November 3 - just one month shy of 25 years ago today. However, it took another five years to see Exit One completed behind the old Treasure Island, due to concerns of environmental impact on Webster Lake.

In closing, I'd like to read a letter from my father, which he wrote to Chamber of Commerce members 25 years ago. And I quote "Last Friday, November 3, 1978, will be remembered by many as the day the road opened. It has been over twenty five years that the "Short Link Committee" started on this project. On January 28, 1958, while Mr. Alexander Joyce was President, the original committee consisting of John Bayer, Robert Harris, Leonard Leboeuf, Eudore "Teddy" Morse, Charles Puliafico, and myself was formed. The rest is history. The road will certainly improve the area's economic base; everyone agrees on this. Just think where we would be if the road went from Putnam through Woodstock and Sturbridge as originally planned...The Final Link Committee now can be officially disbanded. A job well done!"

 


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