DuBOIS — Once again, a part of history — the Blessed Mother statue — is back where it belongs in the neighborhood commonly known as “the flats” of DuBois.
“If anybody in the neighborhood died, you always said, ‘Bring flowers down to the Blessed Mother,’” said Treasure Lake resident Theresa Suplizio, who grew up on Hamor Street in “the flats.”
“They would then bring the flowers down from the funeral home, and put them in front of the Mother,” Suplizio said following Thursday’s statue dedication ceremony. “Graduation pictures, prom pictures, we had them taken right in front of the statue.”
“She was part of us. It is part of the neighborhood,” Suplizio said.
The neighborhood was called “the flats” for good reason, according to Suplizio.
“When the water from the nearby Sandy Lick Creek overflowed its banks, there was no where for it to go. We were accustomed to flooding, but Hurricane Agnes showed no mercy and just kept dumping water into the already swelling creeks and streams,” recalled Suplizio, who was about 14 years old at the time. “Flood control had always been a topic of conversation, but this storm validated the need for it.”
“Our neighborhood was comprised of different ethnic and social backgrounds, but contained a strong Catholic presence,” Suplizio said. “At the time, Father Dan Dymski was instrumental in convincing the people in the area that they deserved federal aid. You have to understand that these were proud, working people who never asked for handouts. They worked for everything they had.”
But Father Dan convinced them that it was aid they deserved, Suplizio said.
“As a token of appreciation, the neighborhood took up a collection for him. He would not accept the money, but instead asked that a statue of the Blessed Mother be put up to remind us of our faith and how blessed we were that no lives were lost,” Suplizio said. “The base of the statue represents how high the water was. I still remember my Dad and Jim Pullman making the form for that base. Once the statue was erected, a blessing and dedication was held.”
Fast forward many years later.
“I can’t remember the exact year, but the original statue was stolen and vandalized. I believe the police did finally find it, but it was smashed,” Suplizio said. “Those left in the neighborhood decided to replace the statue and I contacted Father Dan and he came back to bless this replacement statue. Now again we are having to replace it, which brings us to today.”
The statue represents a part of history, Suplizio said.
“It represents our love and trust in God and the Blessed Mother and how they watched over us during this devastating storm,” Suplizio said. “We lost so much during that flood, but never our faith or determination. Once the water receded, we just picked up and moved on.”
Sam Petrucci, who was 16 years old during the flood and grew up in “the flats,” said “the statue is special to me because it represents the faith and endurance (that enabled) my family and neighbors to come through the floods.”
Jean Bojalad, who still lives in “the flats” today agreed the statue is an important piece of the history of the neighborhood.
“It just quietly resided there all these years,” Bojalad said. “I don’t think a lot of people knew it was there unless they drove past it.”