PAWTUCKET — As tranquil and serene Mondor Gardens is, something was missing. That “something” was a remembrance designed specifically to preserve the memory of late Pawtucket Red Sox owner Ben Mondor.
Upon agreeing that a statue would prove fitting, PawSox President Mike Tamburro and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer reached out to the only person they felt would capture Mondor in the light that would display his affinity for PawSox baseball.
Turns out that someone was a familiar face – Carol “Tayo” Heuser, a lady whose artistic talents are on display throughout McCoy Stadium.
“Tayo was a student at RISD in 1977 who answered our ad to paint the original (player) murals on the walls at McCoy, which she did a remarkable job on and the murals got better year after year,” explained Tamburro. “She’s a talented artist and was the person that we talked about when expanding and extending Mondor Gardens. She was the perfect choice and it was a labor of love.”
Now a sculptor based in New York City, Heuser was on hand Friday as she along with Tamburro and Mondor’s wife, Madeleine, officially unveiled a six-foot bronze statue of Ben Mondor that shows him holding a bat. Heuser carefully removed the rope that fastened the blue cover while she and Madeleine Mondor had the honors of taking off the cover that would allow the statue to be viewed for all to see.
“He was one of my dearest friends and a close mentor of mine,” said Heuser about Ben Mondor, who passed away on October 3, 2010. “I consider it an honor to bring him to life like this and think it’s one of the most wonderful things I think I’ve ever done.”
Stated Schwechheimer, “Ben would go visit her while she was painting the murals. She would be here in February and it would be freezing cold. As she said recently, she and Ben have come full circle. She did a remarkable job, she really did.”
With a couple hundred on hand, the PawSox conducted a 20-minute ceremony that featured quick-to-the-point speeches that fell in line with Mondor’s belief that speaking engagements shouldn’t be drawn out. In fact, the unveiling began a few minutes ahead of schedule in order to avoid falling victim to the rain showers that began appearing shortly after the conclusion.
“If anyone deserves this, Ben does,” remarked Rhode Island Attorney General and Pawtucket native Peter Kilmartin.
Heuser explained the creative process behind the statue.
“Originally I started with clay and from that took it to a foundry in Vermont,” she said. “It took about eight months to do the clay and after that, the work at the foundry took two to three months. All and all, it was a year-and-a-half process.”
Nearly a year has passed since Mondor Gardens, located behind left-field fence near the ticket office, officially became part of the McCoy ambiance. With its paved walkways, park benches, a collection of trees, plants and flowers, the area was viewed as the perfect place for fans to soak in the atmosphere prior to passing through the turnstiles. In addition, the setting also includes six bronze statues that Ben Mondor purchased in Florida.
“We always talked about having a park-like theme at the stadium and the (statue) just fit,” Tamburro said. “Ben loved nothing more than this ballpark in this city in this state. “He poured the most important years of his life into this place. He loved being outside this stadium while the fans came in and to me he’s going to be right in the middle of it again.
“Ben always reminded me of a parish priest the way he shook hands and interacted with fans on their way in,” Tamburro continued. “Ben’s favorite saying was that we’re blessed to play a little kid’s game on freshly cut grass under God’s blue sky. That’s what we tried to create.”
Among the political dignitaries on hand were R.I. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, former Speaker of the House John Harwood, and James Doyle, who preceded Grebien as the Mayor of Pawtucket.
Also in attendance were Red Sox Senior Advisor and R.I. native Jeremy Kapstein, all three of the Cardi brothers, Bishop Emeritus Robert Mulvee and RIIL Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte.
A who’s who of baseball types turned out, the list including former PawSox and Red
Sox manager Joe Morgan, John Tudor, Dick Berardino, Frank Malzone, Mike Roarke, Dave Koza, Tommy Harper, Lou Merloni, Bob Montgomery, Rico Petrocelli and John Lickert, who is presently the varsity girls’ basketball head coach at Shea High School.