At work finishing off a stone walkway at the Town of Chester Veterans Memorial Plaza were Chestertown residents (front, left to right) Steve Walters, Ray Hensler and Luke Quagliana. They were among the 40 Home Depot employees from six stores volunteering to upgrade the plaza May 16, installing new bushes, walkways, landscaping and stone benches.
Luke Quagliana of Chestertown tamped down a paver in a new sidewalk he and a dozen fellow workers were constructing May 16 in the town of Chester Veterans Memorial Plaza.
They were part of a crew of 40 volunteers, employees of several Home Depot stores in the Capital Region who came to build walkways and landscape at the Veterans memorial. They were taking an unpaid day off to assist in the project.
Looking up from his work, Quagliana gazed at the four multi-ton granite monuments that bear hundreds of names of veterans and soldiers who fought in wars and conflicts over the past 275 years.
“I feel for all those guys who have served or are serving now,” he said with a solemn face. “I wouldn’t be here working in the sunshine today if it weren’t for them.”
One of those soldiers is Quagliana’s son, Luke Jr., who’s a Marine serving his second tour in Afghanistan.
Working next to Quagliana was Steve Walters, also from Chestertown. Both are Home Depot employees. Months Ago, Walters and his wife Linda alerted Home Depot about the Chestertown veterans’ memorial project, prompting the home improvement chain to become involved.
Walters said he and his wife wanted to do their part for the monument enhancement because they have a strong bond with Chestertown as well as a deep respect for service personnel defending our nation.
Walters said they moved up to the area soon after the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks. He knew people killed in the attacks and had friends working in the rescue and recovery efforts afterwards.
“9-11 was terrible,” he said. “Soon after, I said ‘That’s it, we’re done,’ and we moved up north.” Steve and Linda drove up the Northway, and incidentally stopped off in Chestertown.
“We just fell in love with the town, so we settled here,” Walters said.
Working with Walters and Quagliana was Ray Hensler, who’s been dedicated to local community service for years. His mother Pat Hensler, committed a lot of time to benefit the community.
“It was important for me to be here to help out,” he said.
The 40 Home Depot employees were from the firm’s stores in Queensbury, Saratoga, Clifton Park, Amsterdam and Schenectady, — all working on their day off to do their part to honor the Town of Chester military personnel past and present, said Home Depot Regional Manager Rich Walpole of Albany.
May 16, The group swarmed over the plaza, planting shrubs, building two sidewalks, and installing granite benches.
“Our employees are doing this to thank the military personnel for what they’ve done for our country,” he said.
“This is from their heart — it’s sweat equity — this is their day off,” he added.
Queensbury Home Depot Store Manager Carmen Carbone said he was pleasantly surprised with the efficiency of his co-workers. Their enthusiasm was apparently spurred by the employees forming teams to work separately on the two sidewalks, in a timed competition — complete with friendly jibes and backtalk, Walpole said.
“The group working on the northern walkway won, but it wasn’t fair,” Walpole said in mock dismay. “They had a jump start — Anyway, I was holding back.”
Carbone said the competition sped up the work way past expectations.
“I thought this would take a full day, and they laid 2,000 pavers in two hours,” he said, adding a compliment for his assistant manager Alison Hubbard, who unloaded dozens of bushes single-handedly from a truck she drove up from Queensbury.
Monument project coordinator Harry Bollback of Pottersville also said he was impressed.
”This is amazing,” he said of both the volunteer labor and the $11,000 donation of materials from the Home Depot Foundation. “This thing took on a life of its own.”
The Veterans’ Memorial Plaza is to be re-dedicated, with its new features, in a ceremony set for Saturday July 6, the day of Chestertown Summerfest.