By Seth Daniel
No one was more surprised to become president of the Friends of the Training Field than the candidate himself, Billy Kelly.
The life-long resident of the Training Field area – and former firefighter – never expected to be nominated, but after a nearly unanimous vote of the organization, Kelly took the reins from outgoing President Diane Valle and is forging a path to get some unique things done in the park.
“Diane nominated me to my surprise and everyone put their hands up to elect me, so I took it on,” he said. “I’m new to this kind of thing, so I need help. I told everyone I’ll be the president in name, but I need a big support group to help me. So far, we’ve had several members step up and I’m grateful for that. Right now, we are really trying to push to get people to join the Friends of the Training Field. We want to be very inclusive and bring everyone in for this membership drive.”
Valle said she was happy to have served four years, but wanted to concentrate on other things.
“I committed to being president for four years and to see through the renovation of the park,” she said. “The park has been completed for one year and there are other initiatives I’d like to use my energy for. This has been a great example of collaboration and we are grateful we all got to work together and with the City to get the park done. I think we have a gem in the Training Field that we can all be proud of. My next endeavor is to examine the Bunker Hill re-development.”
Kelly said he grew up on the Training Field quite literally.
He went to Grammar School at the old St. Mary’s fronting the Field, and most recesses were spent playing whiffle ball there. He recalls the old Farmer’s Markets that used to be on Adams Street, and the sprinkler hose that the Fire Department used to set up in the center of the Field.
It’s that kind of fun that Kelly wants to bring back to the Training Field.
“I’d like to bring some excitement back here,” he said. “Right now, you see a Farmer’s Market on Main Street. I remember when they used to have a Farmer’s Market on the Training Field every Saturday. I want to bring that back. We want to bring more kids and families here, and we had a great concert here last summer. I want to do that. The key is to have people here enjoying the Training Field.”
However, his main item on the agenda is getting the Soldiers & Sailors statue in the center of the Field illuminated during the night hours.
The statue is in remembrance of the 3,000 Charlestown residents – including three Medal of Honor recipients – that fought in the Civil War. It was done by noted sculptor Martin Millmore, who was an Irish immigrant known for his military monuments.
“It’s important we get some attention on that monument,” he said. “It deserve to be lit up and I think we can do it without disrupting anyone. Millmore was a Boston guy and very accomplished.”
He said he has been running some tests already with the Parks Department on some tests to light up the statue. He said he hopes there will be more news on that soon.
As for now, Kelly said he is hoping that people will consider joining the Friends of the Training Field and get involved in taking it to the next level.
The dues for joining are $10 for seniors, $25 for an individual and $45 for a family. Mail payment with information to The Cooperative Bank, 201 Main St., Charlestown, MA 02129. Checks should be made payable to The Friends of the Training Field.