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Name of local man added to PW memorial

Looking for some guidance regarding a catch basin issue at his Nashua home, Bob Ekmarck walked into the city Department of Public Works offices a couple of months ago and was met by Lauren Byers, the DPW’s public relations administrator.

They got to talking, and suddenly the catch basin problem was headed for the back burner.

Somewhere along the way, Ekmarck happened to mention the connection – albeit a rather unpleasant one – between his family and Nashua’s Public Works department.

“I said, ‘you’re kidding me,'” Byers remembers saying when Ekmarck told her the details.

It was a Wednesday in late May, and Ekmarck, now 70-ish, was where he usually was on weekdays – sitting in class at Mount Pleasant School. And also as usual, Ekmarck’s father, Kenneth, had driven him to school from the family’s Jefferson Street apartment that morning.

Kenneth Ekmarck, 31, bid his son adieu and headed to work at the city’s Public Works headquarters – the “city barn” – which at the time was at the corner of East Hollis and Dearborn streets.

Less than two hours into his shift, Kenneth Ekmarck was climbing aboard a city grader on Lund Road near Swan Street, where he and his crew were working a paving operation.

Ekmarck slipped, however, and “fell to the ground in the path of a wheel” of the 14-ton truck, according to a Nashua Telegraph account.

At the hospital, physicians engaged in a six-hour battle to save Ekmarck’s life, the paper reported. But the massive injuries he sustained claimed his life around 3 p.m.

“I was 9 when it happened,” Bob Ekmarck told me the other day. He remembers being told to go to a friend’s house instead of going home. His mother met him there.

Now, come June, some 64 years after losing his life in a tragic accident, Kenneth Ekmarck will be remembered publicly at a ceremony at the Memorial to Public Works Employees, a handsome, black onyx monument in the shape of New Hampshire that was dedicated June 5 on the grounds of the state Department of Transportation in Concord.

See additional information on the memorial, how to submit a name for consideration, and workers currently listed on the monument, included in accompanying boxes.

“It’s the culmination of 10 years worth of prep work, design work and fundraising,” Chris Bonoli-Stohlberg of the state DOT office, said of the memorial.

Thanks to the publicity generated by the June dedication, eight more names have been submitted for consideration by the Memorial to Public Workers Committee. Among them is Kenneth Ekmarck who, so far, is the only Nashua name submitted.

Meanwhile, Manchester has 16 names – with a huge asterisk: Thanks to years of research by Kevin Sheppard, Manchester’s director of Public Works, the city has its own monument to its fallen Public Works employees.

Which, of course, begs the question: Could a Public Works memorial be in Nashua’s future?

Perhaps, but what we do know is Bob Ekmarck’s chance mention of his father’s fate got Byers, the Public Works public relations administrator, wondering how many other workers who lost their lives on the job could be out there.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Sundays in The Telegraph. He may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.