Did You Know? (Bandstand Weathervane)

Every year the Rotary Club spends a day scraping, painting, cleaning and landscaping around the Anthony Gentile Bandstand to ready it for the tourist and wedding seasons as well as the summer concert series. One of Greg Bover’s jobs as the club member most comfortable with working up high is to go up on the roof to the cupola to spruce it up and change the light bulb.  He learned to do this job from the late Herb Goodick, and remembers his dedication to citizenship, “service above self” and his deep love of Gloucester every time he climbs up there.

A few years ago Greg noticed that the cool one-of-a-kind weathervane with its two homies was not turning and took it down for repairs. Only then after cleaning it did he realize that it was a memorial to Yvette Suzanne York.  She was a young woman who died of leukemia some years back, and her family gave this nicely conceived piece of work for this windy spot.

The copper birds both have inlaid glass eyes and the lighthouse has a little mirror where the light would be, it shines out if you see it from just the right angle.  Greg would love to know who made it, if anyone knows.

It has now been greased and is ready for another year’s service.

This is an update to this post I wrote in May 2012.  Following is the story by Linda York-Robbins, Yvette’s mother, who desiged the weathervane that Greg was repairing:

The Weathervane

Linda M. York-Robbins
Just as so many times before, my right foot pressed slowly on the brake pedal of my car; my car came easing to a stop at the intersection in Burlington center. It was the summer of 1975, it was hot, and it was Friday.

With the work week over, my thoughts, “Here I am again at the same place, the same time.” I cranked the window down to let in the motionless, warm air in as my elbow eased out over the hot door frame. Halted; three cars back from the traffic lights, my eyes refused to be entertained by the monotony of waiting for the traffic light to change. Instead, my eyes looked over my left shoulder, fixed themselves on an old white, wooden church, and then followed the clapboard structure upwards. There, atop the church on the fixed, intersecting, N, E, S, W directional rested a delicate church scroll—better known as a weathervane.

Like me, it was sitting there anticipating the wind’s decree—for change—for a chance to be free to move once again. My eyes were held captive by the intricate work of the weathervane’s design as a slight breath of wind nudged the weathervane—a honking car nudged my attention back into the movement of the traffic.

From that experience, weathervanes intrigued me, and I was compelled to research and seek out these beautiful wind ornaments around Massachusetts. Like a scavenger hunt, the prize was to view these wind ornaments against the backdrop of the sky. Their value is perhaps greater than that of the buildings beneath them—buildings can be demolished and yet weathervanes saved as a treasure of the past. At that time I did not know how they would impact my life.

A year later, 1976 brought the Bicentennial. It was spring; many cities and towns across the country were preparing for the historic July 4th celebrations. As I was passing through my hometown of Wilmington, Massachusetts, I found myself directed to stop by the side of the town common. There at the point of this triangular park, I was captivated by the construction of a small bandstand/gazebo. My creative impulses surged with the idea of creating a weathervane to accent this new structure. It was not long before I drew up a design and presented it to the town officials.

The design was simple; because Wilmington is home of the Baldwin apple, I created a folk-art design incorporating an apple and apple tree, and the year 1630 (the year Wilmington was incorporated as a town).

The Bicentennial celebrations flourished; an image of my weathervane appeared in the local paper. But soon, like the dissipating smoke from the fireworks, time moved away from this historic moment.

My weathervane and I now held a place in history—more importantly we had a kinship with the wind. This kinship, coincidental or not—I think that it is more than coincidental:
The blizzard of 1978’s fury propelled my weathervane from the gazebo. It was lost and buried beneath the deep snow. And at the same time, I came down with the flu. Not only sick, I was heartbroken to hear that the weathervane was missing. I was far too ill to head out into the snow to rescue it. Oddly, two weeks later the weathervane was found, and I recovered from the flu. Once the weathervane was reunited with the gazebo, the weathervane continued yielding to the wind.

Wind has the supremacy to move things as though they were alive—and time—like wind, moves life. 1983 found me sharing my love with my three year-old daughter, Yvette. We lived in Andover, Massachusetts. A summer day found us heading for Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park to enjoy a picnic lunch. Leaving the car with a picnic basket in one hand and Yvette’s hand in my other we spent a good ten minutes trying to find just the right place for our picnic blanket. I can remember it so well; it was a moment that would follow me into the future. We stood atop the hill above the Parisi Ball Field looking at the ocean. It was all so inviting to continue toward the beach, but suddenly, as if I were prompted by someone else, I echoed to Yvette, “No, we can’t go down there.” We have to move back to a spot about 20’ away from where we stood. There we set up our picnic; we shared a wonderful day. I took pictures of her sitting on one of the stone walls of the visitor’s center in the park to save as a memory of our day in Gloucester.

The pictures did not develop. A year and a half later, Yvette was gone from my life. She died of cancer at the age of four. Her beautiful life ceased….Her movement in the world now still. Life changed. Like the intersecting points of the directional at the base of the weathervane, the change was so definite.

A few years later I returned to Gloucester. This time I was remarried. Our house overlooked Stage Fort Park. It was bittersweet to be near the place that Yvette and I had visited. I would think of those memories when I routinely walked through the park.
One, warm, sunny summer morning, as I came up over the hill and saw a few piles of lumber encircling the place where Yvette and I once picnicked, my eyes immediately filled with tears as I whispered to myself, “A gazebo! “ I could barely see as the sun sparkled through my tears as I hurried home to tell my husband about the gazebo. I knew that I wanted to design a weathervane for this structure that would mark that memory.
This time, I designed a full-blown copper weathervane. The design includes two gulls, Flat Rock, and a rendering of the Eastern Point light house. One gull at the center of the design is stylized; It represents me, and the other gull, located at the end of the weathervane represents Yvette. It is a full-flown, life-like gull whose wings are spread to catch the wind and mark the direction from which it arrives.

I found a coppersmith in N.H., Don Felix, who was able to create my weathervane according to my design. The weathervane is complete with glass eyes for the gulls and a mirror to reflect the light in the light house.

Once the gazebo, dedicated to bandleader, Tony Gentile was completed, the newspapers included a brief story about the Yvette and the weathervane that crowned the new gazebo. The morning that the weathervane was to be placed upon the gazebo, a ladder truck from the fire department was parked beside the structure with the ladder already leading up to the cupola. I was surprised when one of the fire fighters approached me and said that he had read the story about the weathervane in the newspaper, and he hoped that he would be on duty this day so that he could be the one who would carry the weathervane to the top of the gazebo.

I held the weathervane in my hands for the last time, gave it a kiss, and handed it to him. He turned, and carried it to its place in the wind, and after a few moments of adjusting the weathervane, he leaned away from it and looked down at me, as if to say, “It is all set; she is free to move.”

In the silence of that moment a soft sound of applause emerged, and then honking from cars filled the warm, morning air. My tears overpowered me; I smiled looking upward as I fought the broken heart of losing Yvette, and I realized then that this gazebo sat upon the very place where Yvette and I spent our one day in Gloucester.

This weathervane would also be unleashed from its home by a winter’s storm. Part of the reason was due to the welding loosening the copper seams. In returning the damaged weathervane to the coppersmith, Mr. Felix told me that he had lost his father to cancer since he had first made the weathervane. He shared with me that his loss made him realize more deeply the meaning behind my weathervane. When he finished repairing the weathervane, he gave me a section that he had to replace. That section was the part that had Yvette’s name engraved into it. Mr. Felix was also able to make that section into the angel, Gabriel. He then showed me that he had engraved Yvette’s name back onto the new repaired section of the weathervane.

It has now been thirty-seven years since my first weathervane took to the wind. Their purpose is simply to indicate the wind’s direction—Perhaps… Perhaps more…

Each time I see or even think of the weathervane I feel Yvette’s spirit move as the wind nudges the weathervane through time.
Linda M. York-Robbins

…..and I still wonder what it was that “nudged” me to that particular spot where Yvette and I shared our picnic.

11 comments

  • welcome!

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  • Made by ? York-Robbins, a lovely woman/artist, who teaches Art at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

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  • I think a weathervane is a really cool memorial. Kudos!

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  • Linda M. York-Robbins

    I am Yvette’s mother, who designed the weathervane. Yvette was only four years old when she died of cancer. We traveled from Andover to picnic at Stage Fort Park. After walking around for just the right spot, I felt something lead me to the spot where the bandstand is now. (It wasn’t there in 1983. We spent a wonderful summer day. That fall she became sick and died about 9 months later.
    What makes this story so interesting, is that I had designed a weathervane for my home town, (Wilmington, MA), gazebo in 1976 for the bicentenial. Years passed, I got married, and had Yvette, and also divorced. When I remarried, I moved to Gloucester where I live now overlooking the park in 1987.
    I would walk around the park so often and think about the picnic that Yvette and I shared. And then one day, as I walked up over the hill, there was a pile of lumber resting on the same place that Yvette and I had settled….My tears filled my eyes …I new that the wood was for a gazebo, and that I was going to design another weathervane –this one for Yvette. I have written a complete story of this, and I would like to submit it to the park as background information about the weathervane.

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  • Linda, thank you so much for sharing the history of the weathervane and about Yvette. I have to admit tears filled my eyes reading it. Having the whole story at the park would be wonderful so people can know.
    Small world; Wilmington is also my hometown, which I left in 1975 when I moved to Boston. My mother still lives there and I will look for your gazebo weathervane next time I go home to visit.

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    • Linda M. York-Robbins

      EJ,
      The weathervane sat upon the gazebo for 38 years, and was retired when the gazebo was redone and a new cupola replaced it.

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  • Linda, Yvette has a big smile on her face and a happy heart not only for her weather vain but because she had such a wonderful mom who wanted the world to remember her forever.lv Sue D

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  • Thank you for the touching story. My wife and I got married at that bandstand and knowing the memorial that is the weathervane makes it even more special.

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  • Linda,
    What a beautiful story! This was more than a coincidence,I’m sure. I live in Ipswich,but I’m from Gloucester. The next time I’m in Gloucester I’ll be looking for your weather vane.

    Marion

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  • This is one of the reasons we love Good Morning Gloucester. The story behind the story.Thanks to all who made it happen.

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