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Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Carol Keplar, left, and Paul Boza use nylon brushes to polish the Old Fort Wayne Well plaque.

Plaque at well gets facelift

Rotary Club makes fixing up markers priority

The historical plaque at the Old Fort Wayne Well gleams in the sunshine after polishing.

As cars and trucks zipped around the corner from Clay Street onto Main Street, a small group of people gathered in the grass.

Carol Keplar and Paul Bouza got down on a piece of cardboard next to the Old Fort Wayne Well, long since sealed up and memorialized.

Having donned safety glasses and masks, the two began to carefully scrub away all the oxidation on a plaque buried in the concrete by the well.

After they worked for a bit, two more took their place – all members of the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club – restoring the historical marker as part of a community service project.

The project has already restored a number of bronze markers around the city, including the plaques on the monuments in Memorial Park, which took four years, according to Jeff Keplar.

The group has been performing this service for more than 30 years and has done more than 50 monuments and plaques throughout the city.

The Old Well plaque, installed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1960, commemorates the use of the well to help save the fort when it was firebombed by nearby Native Americans in 1812.

After years of rain, exhaust from passing cars, snow and sun, the plaque’s bronze face became dark, its raised letters nearly indistinguishable from the background.

But as Bruce Cole, the Keplars and others scrubbed at it with the nylon brushes mounted on corded drills, the bronze began to shine, to catch the morning sunlight streaming directly onto it.

Community service projects are part of the ethos of the Rotary Club, which works for worldwide polio eradication and locally provides dictionaries to every third-grader in the community, Jeff Keplar said.

But the monument restoration is different, something tangible and immediately visible to all who happen by.

Their work brings back to life the names of the dead memorialized on the World War I plaques in the park, as well as the significance of other places and people who were here,

“So people can get a sense of the history here in Fort Wayne,” Jeff Keplar said.

The idea for the work came about 30 years ago from Rotarian Robert McMahon, Cole said.

The projects are done in stages, beginning with the scrubbing to clean off the oxidation, and then a stain is applied. Finally, the tops of the letters are polished so they can be more easily read, he said.

If anyone in the community is aware of any monuments or plaques that are in need of attention, they can contact the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club through their website www.anthonywaynerotary.com.

rgreen@jg.net

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