Brodeur Mass Pike
Wayside Mary Garden

Preface

The Brodeur Mass Pike Wayside Mary Garden Shrine, of Warren, Massachusetts, is an unique example of how the Marian devotion, prayers and thankgiving of one person have been and continue to be an inspiration for both family members and many thousands of turnpike travelers.

I personally came upon the shrine in 1980; wrote about it to Mary's Gardens Associate, Bonnie Roberson, of Hagerman, Idaho; and described it, with photo, in the 1997 website article "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady".

Subsequently, an incidental mention of the shrine in 2000 in Mary's Gardens in-house correspondence prompted Associate, Michael F. Holden to initiate the inquiry which, with the loving cooperation of Diane Fontaine, daughter of Alfred Brodeur, and of her husband, Bud, and her family, now maintaining the shrine, has led to this extensive "living history" of the shrine's origin. development and significance.

Unique aspects of the shrine, beyond its exemplification of individual and family Marian devotion, are its striking hillside visibility from the Massachusetts Turnpike, one-quarter mile or more in each direction - both by day; and by night, through illumination - with its focal white statue of Our Lady of Grace on a stone pedestal, midst a prominent crescent of flowers - both planted, and also placed there in pots, by stopping turnpike travelers - expressing veneration and devotion.

Of profound significance for the United State is the example of the shrine of how, in a culture of separation of church and state, and "church on Sundays", there can be public quickenings of believers in daily life to needed offerings of prayers and sacrifices - for peace and justice - through the private creation and maintenance of publically accessible wayside shrines.

Of the importance of wayside shrines, an Italian correspondent wrote,

"As you know, here in Italy we have a strong tradition, making it easier for us to relate to Mary. Her signs and symbols are everywhere. At every crossroad you find a shrine; and her images are everywhere at hand. This is said not to diminish appreciation of the interiority of American Marian devotion, but to say that I admire the abllity to be faithful to it in the middle of nothing sometimes."

o o o

The report is presented here in the extensive sequence of developmental e-mail messages, mostly between Michael and Diane, as they inquired into and set forth the story of the shrine - with an hypertext click-index by groups of messages, facilitating the browsing particular aspects of the story. (The repetitive salutations and signaturs on each message have been omitted.)

John Stokes
Mary's Gardens
February, 2006

Introduction, Michael F. Holden

The copies of e-mail correspondence in this collection regarding the Brodeur Mass Pike Wayside Mary Garden cover the period from February 6, 2000 through January 15, 2006.

Diane Fontaine, the primary correspondent, is the daughter of Alfred and Eldora Brodeur, both of who are deceased. Alfred Brodeur built the garden in 1964 at the rear of his property known as Sunnybrook Farm in West Warren in thanksgiving for the healing of his wife who was stricken with cancer. The site of the Mary Garden overlooks the Massachusetts Turnpike and has come to be widely known among turnpike travelers and others throughout the New England area. It has affectionately been referred to by some travelers as "The Madonna of the Turnpike".

This collection includes, with permission, the private e-mail messages of members of the Fontain family descendents who responded - at the request of Diane Fontaine - to share their reminiscences of their grandparents, Alfred and Eldora Brodeur; the circumstances surrounding the building of the shrine garden; and the spiritual impact the garden has had over the years to them personally. and to others.

The project received its initial impetus from a requested Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M., Director of the Marian Library of the University o Dayton, to gather information about existing Mary Gardens throughout the United States.

The early messages recount the interesting search to ultimately identify the Brodeur Mary Garden and to generate the correspondence which followed.

Michael F. Holden
February, 2006

Introduction, Diane Fontaine

In response to requests for the story of the construction of the Marian wayside shrine on our farm overlooking the Massachusetts Turnpike at Warren, Massachusetts, and of its maintenance for three generations, our family, after discussion, agreed to share the faith, love, sorrows and thanksgiving which have gone into it - for posting on this website along with photos, newspaper articles and some private notes of appreciation saved through the years.

This "living history" is presented in all its authenticity, just as requested and recalled in the series of e-mail messages through which it was developed, without any special refinement or idealizing.

It is our hope that this requested sharing of our simple family life of faith, with its focus on the shrine and what it has meant to us and others, will make a contribution to the faith of our times, midst all the stress and conflict of the world to which we are exposed in daily life and the news.

Diane Fontaine
June, 2007

Message Indexes

All Messages in Date Sequence

Project Initiation

Michael to Diane and Bud

Diane and Bud to Michael

Family Member Reports

Press Articles

Representative Notes and Letters

Discussions of Project Between Michael Holden and John Stokes

Project Initiation

7 Feb 2000 - John Stokes to Vincenzina Krymow - Shrine Mentioned

8 Feb 2000 - Michael Holden to John Stokes - Will seek information

8 Feb 2000.2 - Michael Holden to Joe DiFabio - Will you investigate?

8 Feb 2000.3 - Joe to Michael - Initial finding - owned by Fred Brothers

9 Feb 2000.3 - Michael to Joe - Thanks for extremely prompt reply

11 Feb 2000 - Michael to John - Joe's and Marie's help

12 Feb 2000 - Joe to Michael - Forwarded information to Fred

17 Feb 2000 - Joe to Michael - Still trying

17 Feb 2000.2 - Michael to Joe - Thanks for continued efforts

6 Mar 2000.3 - Michael to Joe - Thanks for heroic efforts

10 Mar 2000.2 - Michael to Joe - Michael will be the contact

10 Apr 2000 - Michael to Joe - Follow-up report

10 Apr 2000.2 - Joe to Michael - Thanks for info

Michael to Diane and Bud

6 Mar 2000.2 - First message

7 Mar 2000.2 - Mary's Gardens background

8 Mar 2000 - (John to Diane and Bod) - First contact

10 Mar 2000 - Michael will be the contact

12 Mar 2000 - Let the Holy Spirit guide us

15 Mar 2000 - Further questions

20 Mar 2000 - Rebecca's letter is precious

25 Mar 2000 - Newspaper articles arrived

2 Apr 2000 - Michael to Diane - Thanks for further information

3 Apr 2000 - Michael to Diane - Have you checked Mary's Gardens website?

4 Apr 2000. - Further questions?

8 Apr 2000 - Springfield Union News Article 7-3-87

9 Apr 2000 - Springfield Sunday Republican article 10-19=00

9 Apr 2000.2 - Further articles?

15 Apr 2000 - Boston Magazine article July, 1990

15 Apr 2000.2 - Old (first?) Boston clipping

18 Apr 2000 - Our Lady's Messenger articls

18 Apr 2000.3 - Happy Easter!

Diane and Bud to Michael

7 Mar 2000 - Happy to answer questions

10 Mar 2000.2 - First details about shrine

19 Mar 2000 - Gathering information from family

19 Mar 2000.2 - Whole Family excited about project

20 Mar 2000.4 - Diane to Michael (paper) - Here are newspaper articles

21 Mar 2000 - Further information

25 Mar 2000.3 - Newspaper articles arrived

3 Apr 2000.2 - Form in which to present information?

4 Apr 2000.2 - Further recollections

7 Apr 2000 - Further information

7 Apr 2000.2 - One negative thing that happened

18 Apr 2000.2 - Thanks for "Our Lady's Messenger" article

20 Apr 2000.2 - Diane to Michael - Prayers for Bud's mother

30 Apr 2000 - Diane to Michael - Going to Rhode Island

1 May 2000 - Diane to Michael - Memories from Son, Joseph

1 May 2000.2 - Diane to Michael - Miracles do happen!

6 May 2000 - Becky to Michael - Sending Joe's file again

6 May 2000.2 - Diane to Michael - Typing Joe's memory file.

6 May 2000.3 - Diane to Michael - Sister Jean's reminiscences.

7 May 2000 - Diane to Michael and Bernadette - Prayer requests

Family Member Reports

16 Mar 2000 - Diane to nephew Mark Baptiste - Request for information

19 Mar 2000.3 - Nephew Mark to Diane - Memories of grandfather

20 Mar 2000 - Diane to Michael - Forwarding letter from niece Rebecca

19 Mar 2000.4 - Niece Rebecca to Diane

20 Mar 2000 - Diane - Phone message from nephew David

23 Mar 2000 - Letter to Diane from niece Laura

25 Mar 2000 - Diane to Michael - Forwarding message from daughter Lisa

25 Mar 2000.2 - Daughter Lisa to Diane and Bud

4 Apr 2000 - Daughter Melanie's recollections

20 Apr 2000 - Message from friend Beckie

1 May 2000 - Memories from Son, Joseph

1 May 2000.2 - Miracles do happen!

6 May 2000 - Becky to Michael

6 May 2000.2 - Son, Joe reminiscences

6 May 2000.3 - Sister, Jeanne's reminiscences

Press Articles

First (?) - Who Puts the Fresh Flowers There?

19 Oct 1975 - Tell It to Joe

5 Jun 1977 - Statue Marks a Gift of Life

3 Jul 1987 - She's an Inpiration to Travelers

19 Oct 1987 - Keeping a Promise to God

1 Jul 1990 - A Mass Pike Primer

22 Nov 2000 - Who Takes Care of thia Madonna Statue?

Representative Notes and Letters

23 Jul 1980 - Thank You for Putting This Statue There

16 Aug 1981 - Be Assured of My Prayers for You

12 Sep 1983 - Our Blessed Mother Among the Trees

1 Jun 1987 - Hoping the Lights Will be Shining Brightly

1 Jul 1987 - The Lights are On

23 Jul 2000 - It was a Dream Come True

23 Jul 2000

- With Joyous Hearts We Visited Your Statue

- Wanted to See Her Once More

- Please Say a Special Prayer for Me

- This Will Be My Last Time Here

- I Say a Quick Prayer as I Pass by

- Keep up the Great Work

Discussions of Project Between Michael Holden and John Stokes

9 Feb 2000.2 - John to Michael - 1980 account of discovering shrine

12 Feb 2000 - Michael to John - Viualization of article on shrine

6 Mar 2000 - Michael to John - Will contact Diane and Bud

9 Mar 2000 - Michael to John - Re. John's exchanges with Diane and Bud

9 Mar 2000.2 - Michael to John - Diane's and Bud's concerns for privacy

10 Mar 2000.4 - John to Michael - Joy over first information

11 Mar 2000 - Michael to John - A treasure of Marian spirituality

19 Mar 2000.4 - Michael to John - Amazing results!

20 Mar 2000.4 - Michael to John - Forwarding note from Rebecca

20 Mar 2000.3 - John to Michael - Beautiful expressions of simple faith

26 March 2000.2 - Michael to John- Summary of information so far

27 March 2000 - John to Michael - Appreciate your thoroughness

30 March 2000 - Michael to John - Springfield Republican article

8 April 2000.2 - Michael to John - Progress reports

The Messages

7 Feb 2000 John Stokes to Vincenzina Krymow - Shrine mentioned

. . . Re. the Listing of Mary Gardens for possible posting on the Marian Library website Mary Page, I greatly value your offer to take on the corroboration of currently existing Mary Gardens and their addresses, and the identification where possible of contact persons. . . .

I wonder whether the wayside Mary Garden I discovered one day on the Mass. Turnpike is still in existence.

8 Feb 2000 Michael Holden to John Stokes - Will seek information

Just read your email to Vincenzina about the existing Mary's Gardens project.

The Mary's Garden that you mentioned located on the Mass Pike in the Palmer/Ludlow area is very familiar to me. We have passed by it many times over the years while living in Massachusetts as well as now during our summer visits to our home in that area - and it seems never to have changed - always faithfully extending an invitation to "look on the flower, think of Mary".

I have a close friend who lives in Brimfield which is just a few miles east of the Palmer area where the garden is located. I shall email him and ask if he knows anyone at, or can maybe make contact with, the local parish for information regarding its origin, ownership, and care.

Hopefully someone at the church can provide a history and current circumstances surrounding the garden. It appears to be lovingly cared for still.

8 Feb 2000.2 Michael Holden to Joe DiFabio - Will you investigate?

Could you possibly investigate - at your leisure - the Mary's Garden in the Palmer area which can be easily seen from the Mass Pike when traveling in the westbound lane - just beyond the bridge and to the right, at the top of the hill. I suspect you have seen it many times.

I would really appreciate your help in this matter. Please refer to my preceding email regarding this matter. The Mary Page mentioned is located at the University of Dayton and is an important source for information about Mary.

John Stokes of Philadelphia - founder of Mary's Gardens (www.mgardens.org) - has been unsuccessful in the past in obtaining information regarding the Palmer garden.

You might just be THE person who can find out something about the garden, given your familiarity with the area and your parish connections in Springfield.

8 Feb 2000.3 Joe to Michael - Initial finding - owned by Fred Brothers

The garden in Warren is owned by Fred Brothers in Warren. I'll try yp find out more info.

9 Feb 2000.2 John to Michael - 1980 account of discovering shrine

Delighted to receive your message re. the Mass Pike wayside Mary Garden, and the copy of your message to your friend, Joe, asking him if he can find out about it.

You may recall that I included mention and a photo of it in my 1997 web site "developmental" article, "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady".

Coming across such Mary Gardens unexpectedly is one of the special joys of this work.

In my period of 1980-1994 intensive collaboration with just a few colleagues, I wrote extensively of my daily work and experiences with Mary's Gardens Partner, Bonnie Roberson, in Hagerman, Idaho (we exchanged perhaps 100 letters and tapes in that period.)

Here are two excerpts re. the Mass Pike Shrine from my letters to her. (I visited it several times subsequently, and took about 20 slide photos. A letter to what I judged to be the area parish asking about it was unanswered.)

THE EXCERPTS:

June 16, 1980

(Dear Bonnie)

Yesterday, I was literally stunned at the sudden brilliance of a 4 foot statue of Our Lady of Grace, at the middle of a 30 foot crescent bed of bright flowers I passed on the highway, (near) Palmer, Mass. It was like a vision or a miracle especially as I was saying my Rosary at the time.

June 24, 1980

Since writing you on June 16 about catching a fleeting glimpse of a wayside shrine Mary Garden on the Massachusetts Pike while driving past the day before, I had an opportunity to visit it on June 20, as a half-hour side trip while returning from a quick trip to New York.

The striking thing about this wayside shrine is its setting - a grassy hill rising up to the woods, the other side of a wire fence, along a stream midst the wayside weeds. It is this grassy hill - which seemed to be well mowed - which gives the sense of spaceŠwhich made me feel at first that it was a 30 foot crescent garden, while actually it is only some 10 feet wide. The enclosed slide, "A", gives some sense of this, although I now realize I should have taken it framed horizontally, rather than vertically.

When we entered the Massachusetts Pike at Sturbridge, 11 miles to the East, it was raining, but I had a feeling the sun would come out at the shrine. And, just as we came around a bend in the highway, there it was in a patch of sun, like a "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow.

So, I took the photos rather quickly, before it clouded up again.

As you can recognize, the flowers in bloom were rhododendron, petunias, alyssum, a geranium, and also a potted golden chrysanthemum. There were some daisies along the ditch, and also some hieracium and bluets behind and at the sides of the shrine.

The statue of Our Lady of Grace appeared to be concrete, and rather recently re-painted. I found the stone pedestal rather attractively rustic. Also, there was the foliage of fall-blooming chrysanthemumsŠ or perhaps some other foliage I failed to notice, and can't recognize from the photos.

What really strikes me about this shrine and garden, Bonnie, is the thought which was behind it, and also lovingly maintains it. It has that special Mary Garden quality which I referred to in "A Garden full of Ave's". It really conveys a sense of love of Our Lady to all the thousands of travelers driving by each day. And while I don't believe you can see this from the photos, there are one or two night flood lights spiked into the ground to one side (or both sides) at the frontŠwith wiring evidently running under the ground.

Very possibly there is a house in or beyond the woods, but I didn't see any. There is no access from the highway, and I had to climb the fence, or, rather, straddle it.

9 Feb 2000.3 Michael to John

9 Feb 2000.3 Michael to Joe - Thanks for prompt reply

Thanks for the extremely prompt reply. I can assume that you are very familiar with the shrine to be able to furnish a name so quickly.

Wonder if Fred Brothers has a website. That would be great!

I am attaching John Stokes' enthusiastic response to the news that there might be a possibility of obtaining more information about the shrine. Obviously the shrine has been 'in place' for at least twenty years. It is amazing that it is still there, and still being cared for. As you can guess, this shrine in particular is dear to John because of past memories.

You might be interested to know that the National Council of Catholic Women is raising funds to install a Mary Garden at the Shrine of The Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The shrine will be dedicated in June of this year.

You can view the article "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady" which John mentioned in the attached message. Access the Mary's Gardens Home Page at www.mgardens.com. Cursor down to the section titled GARDEN PRAYER AND MEDITATION and then click on the title of the article near the bottom of the list. I'm sure you will be pleased to find Fred Brothers' shrine pictured in the article. If, perchance, Fred has a website, you might pass the information along to him. He may be unaware that a picture of his shrine is available on the Internet.

Thanks again for your efforts, and, happy sleuthing! I'll also pray for MOIRE snow!

11 Feb 2000 Michael to John Joe's and Marie's help

More encouraging news about Fred Brothers' Mary Garden. Please see the attached e-mail from Joe sent to me this morning.

Marie is Joe's wife. Marie schedules all bus transportation for the Tantasqua Regional School System in southern Worcester County: hence, "someone who works with Marie". The school system encompasses a tier of several towns south of, and parallel to, the Mass Turnpike, and runs from Sturbridge on the east - where the turnpike turns south to Hartford, Connecticut - and continues westward through Wales, Brimfield and Holland. Warren, I believe , would be on the northwestern end - and above - the Tantasqua Regional School District.

Most encouraging is the mention of forwarding our email correspondence to Fred. You will possibly be able to make direct contact with Fred in the future. I'm sure you would have much to share with him, since I know how significant this shrine has been to you - both in the past, and now with the present compilation of existing Mary's Gardens.

I am inserting your e-mail address here for Fred's benefit, since I shall forward this note to Joe with this important information: marysgardens@mgardens.org

I am very pleased with this latest news; especially how helpful Marie and Joe have been in this matter. Isn't it amazing how God opens doors, and just at the right time!

11 Feb 2000.2 John to Michael - Father Weiser's promotions

Needless to say, I am "sitting on the edge of my seat" following your detective work re. the Mass Pike Wayside Mary Garden, and will eagerly await the further information which it appears will be forthcoming.

There comes to mind that I was told by a correspondent back in the 1950's that he/she was informed that Fr. Francis X Weiser, S.J. of the Jesuit Seminary in central Massachusetts had mentioned the Flowers of Our Lady and Mary Gardens in several radio programs and that as a consequence a number of Mary Gardens had been planted in the area. I wonder if Fred Brothers' Wayside Mary Garden was one so inspired. I wrote to Fr. Weiser at the time and he confirmed that he had made the mention over the radio, but had not been informed of any specific Mary Gardens planted as a result.

Father Weiser also wrote of a number of the Flowers of Our Lady in three of his books published around that time, "The Christmas Book", "Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs" and "The Holy Day Book". I no longer have them at hand, but mentioned them to Vincenzina, who looked them up, and they are included in the bibliography of her "Mary Flowers: Gardens, Legends and Meditations."

I have at hand 12 color slides of the Mass Pike Wayside Mary Garden taken in June, 1980, one of which, framing the garden, was used with the article, "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady", and three of which I attach to this message:

I remember my visit as though it were yesterday. (3 Photos)

12 Feb 2000 Michael to John - Visualization of article on shrine

It would seem that Fred Brothers' Wayside Mary Garden has quite an interesting history - given its possible connection with Fr. Weiser's radio broadcasts.

I don't seem to recall a Jesuit seminary in central Massachusetts. The Jesuit presence in that area, however, is well represented by Holy Cross College in Worcester. The College may be a possible source of information in the matter of Fr. Weiser, S.J.

If Fred can fill in the early historical details - especially a connection with Fr. Weiser - along with its developmental history up to the present day, this would be an outstanding example of how the goals of Mary's Gardens in encouraging devotion to Mary as exemplified in the Flowers of Our Lady has resulted in this long-standing vintage private Mary Garden.

I can visualize a 'NEW' article in the future, complete with illustration(s) from your slide collection, on this particular Mary Garden - given the potential for it that exists even at this early date. Maybe even one that takes the garden through the four seasons - with a photographic assist from Fred.

12 Feb 2000 Joe to Michael Forwarded information to Fred

We have forwarded the info.

I hope we get a response from Fred.

17 Feb 2000 Joe to Michael - Still trying

Roger was unable to make contact with Frank on Sunday. Also, he must have an unlisted phone number. Vacation is next week. I'll see if I can find a way to contact him.

17 Feb 2000.2 Michael to Joe - Thanks for continued efforts

Thanks for continuing in your efforts to make contact with Fred Brothers. This would be a wonderful connection to an 'original' Mary Gardener.

17 Feb 2000.3 Michael to John - Still trying

Roger was unable to make contact with Frank on Sunday. Also, he must have an unlisted phone number. Vacation is next week. I'll see if I can find a way to contact him.

6 Feb 2000 Joe to Michael - Present care of the shrine

I'm hot on the trail of the story of the shrine on the Mass Pike in Warren, The people who now take care of the shrine are Diane and Bud Fontain. I have their phone number and will call them this weekend. I'll get back to you as soon as I have more info.

6 Mar 2000.2 Joe to Michael - Contact established with Fontaines

Mission accomplished! The shrine is owned by Diane and Bud Fontaine. It was built by Diane's parents, Al and Eldora Brodeur. Al constructed the shrine in thanksgiving for the curing of his wife's cancer.

They live on a dead end street so they placed the statue along the Pike so it would be visible, hoping to encourage people to pray the rosary.

There are interesting stories regarding travelers that have prayed to Mary as a result of seeing the statue. Also, a Boston TV station broadcast a special on the shrine.

Both parents are now deceased. Diane and Bud are now living on the property. They gave me permission to pass on their e-mail address: , , ,

I spent some time talking to Diane. She was very pleasant and helpful.

6 Mar 2000.3 Michael to Joe - Thanks for heroic efforts

Please accept my sincerest thanks for the heroic efforts you and Marie have exerted in uncovering the mystery and ownership of the Mary's Gardens shrine on the Mass Pike. I know I speak for John Stokes as well on this matter, since this particular shrine has a warm place in his heart.

I shall contact Diane and Bud and keep you posted on my progress. With their help, the importance and significance of the shrine to the Brodeurs and, now, to the Fontaines, can be shared with others to further inspire devotion to Our Lady.

Thanks again.

6 Mar 2000.4 Michael to John - Will contact Diane and Bud

Here is the latest email from my faithful friend Joe regarding the Mary's Garden Shrine in Warren, Mass. He is certainly to be commended on his diligence and degree of success in this matter.

I shall contact Diane and Bud Fontaine and begin a dialogue by way of introducing them to the significance of their shrine from the MG perspective, and the Mary's Gardens Project. I am very pleased that they were so receptive to Joe's inquiry. Hopefully - through my correspondence with Diane and Bud - a history of the shrine will evolve. We shall definitely try to arrange a visit to the shrine this summer, at which time pictures and additional information may be gleaned.

I shall forward any correspondence to you regarding the Fontaine shrine. If the time comes, please do the same for me.

6 Mar 2000.5 - Michael to Diane and Bud - First message

Dear Diane and Bud,

Just a brief note of introduction and appreciation.

As one of several Mary's Gardens Associates volunteers throughout the country, I am pleased to make contact with you both.

My sincere thanks for welcoming my friend Joe DiFabio's inquiry concerning your family Mary's Garden shrine. I am especially grateful that we can correspond in the future on this matte. Thank you for your email address.

I shall contact you in the near future for a longer note.

In the meantime, might I encourage you to read about your shrine on the Mary's Garden website - and browse at will.

Access the Mary's Garden's Home Page at mgardens.org. Cursor down to the section titled GARDEN PRAYER AND MEDITATION, and then click on the article near the bottom of the list titled "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady". A description of the shrine - and a photograph - is included in this article.

I look forward to learning more about this wonderful shrine which I, personally, have observed many times in my travels on the Mass Pike over the years before moving to Florida. We lived in West Springfield and traveled to my parent's home in Southbridge. We shall be returning to West Springfield this summer and hope to meet you both personally.

I'll give you some background on the Mary's Garden Project which originated at the University of Dayton and which led eventually to your own personal Mary's Garden. In the meantime, feel free to contact me.

Until then,

Best Regards,

Michael

7 Mar 2000 Diane & Bud to Michael - Happy to answer questions

Just a few lines to let you know we received your message and will be happy to answer questions. Neither my husband or I are very good on the computer so please excuse us.

The statue of Mary is very important to us, but we are also a little bit frightened of publicity, as my mother was when she was alive. My parents were simple farmers who had a great amount of faith as you will see when we can show you some newspaper articles that were written when they were here.

Once again, I will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Thank you and God bless you!

Sincerely,

Diane Fontaine

7 Mar 2000.2 Michael to Diane and Bud - Mary's Gardens background

Thanks for your kind and prompt reply. By way of setting your mind at ease, let me briefly tell you about Mary's Gardens.

MG was founded in 1951 by two Philadelphia gentlemen, one of whom passed away in the '70's. The remaining partner is still alive and well - and 79 years young.

His name is John Stokes and, if you visit his website at mgardens.org, you will see that most of the articles about Mary's Gardens have been written by John.

While John is a convert to Catholicism, his late partner Ed McTague was of Irish Catholic heritage. They met when John attended Ed's course in The Postulates of Economics at St. Joseph's College (now University) Evening Institute of Industrial Relations in Philadelphia.

John told Ed about how people in the Middle Ages in Europe named flowers after the Virgin Mary in order to teach the illiterate people of the time about Mary and her attributes. The modern lady slipper was once known as Our Lady's Slipper. The modern marigold was once referred to as Mary's Gold. The tulip was known as Our Lady's Prayer. Lily-of the-valley was known as Our Lady's Tears. I can only guess that the lady bug must have once been known as Our Lady's Bug!

Over the years, John has accumulated a vast amount of research about the medieval names for flowers - long before the use of scientific names became common. During these years John's ministry has been to spread devotion to Our Lady by popularizing this information about the medieval names of flowers associated with Our Lady.

His research and articles were placed on the web in 1995 and have had a great impact - in spite of these efforts being accomplished singlehandedly from his home in Philadelphia.

I happened to find John's website about a year ago as I was surfing the web for information about Our Blessed Mother. Since then, I have become involved in a MG website mapping project.

There are about six other people in various parts of the country who have met John in this way, and have come to develop an interest in his work - and have assisted him in different ways.

A book has recently been authored by Vincenzina Krymow, one of these volunteers, and published by St. Anthony's Messenger Press. The title is "Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends, and Meditations."

John's efforts have born fruit, as you will discover on the Mary's Garden Home Page. A number of Mary's Gardens now exist in the United States through the influence and research of this one man. I'll share more of this later.

This June, a Mary's Garden at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. will be dedicated, through the sponsorship of the National Council of Catholic Women. This is the latest of prominent gardens of this nature to be established. One of the first in this country was established at St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, MA in the 1930's. It is still in existence and we hope to visit it this summer.

John's interest in your garden stems from his frequent trips on the pike between Boston and Philadelphia on business trips in the '80's. He was fascinated by the fact that a wayside garden in honor of Our Lady would have been privately established. This was during the years of growing research, and he wondered if the people who established the garden (your parents) were aware of the rich heritage behind the names of flowers named for Our Lady.

The Marianist Fathers at the University of Dayton in Dayton Ohio, have a large collection of Marian information on their Mary Page website. With the growing interest in Mary's Gardens, Fr. Roten asked John to begin a list of known Mary's Gardens throughout the world. Large Mary's Gardens exist at the Knock Shrine in Ireland, and at Akita, in Japan.

It was this project that led me to think about your garden in Warren. As you may have gathered from reading John's article which I mentioned last evening, this particular garden has been close to his heart. Hence Joe DiFabio helping me to find its owners.

I appreciate your offer to share the wondrous history and events associated with your parents' shrine, and I admire you both for sustaining it these many years.

Please rest assured that John's interest in the shrine is purely to learn about the only private Mary's Garden wayside shrine - and its interesting story available for study - and the inspiration and faith that brought it into existence originally. Your family privacy will be strictly respected, and there is no intention in making any information you would not wish to share public. We are more interested in knowing about the 'personal' story of your shrine for its own sake.

I look forward to learning more about this shrine and have been tantalized by the few bits of information revealed so far. Thanks again for your kind reply.

8 Mar 2000 John to Diane and Bud - First contact

Dear Diane and Bud,

I was most pleased to receive my forwarded copy of Michael Holden's e-mail message to you of March 6th regarding your Mass Pike wayside Mary-Shrine.

As you will see from the excerpts from some letters I wrote to a friend in Idaho in 1980, which I will add at the end of this message, I came upon the shrine that year and made some unsuccessful attempts to find out who cared for it. If I had walked further up the road leading from the shrine I would probably have come upon your house, but I did not want to leave my car unattended at the side of the pike.

I have been studying and growing the Flowers of Our Lady for some 50 years, and, as I described in the letter excerpts, it was a great joy to come upon your shrine. You may have read by now what I also wrote about it in the 1997 article, "Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady", posted, with photo, to our Mary's Gardens Internet web site, at www.mgardens.org.

Joseph DiFabio, who kindly sought out information about the shrine from you for my colleague, Michael Holden, to whom I had mentioned it, has informed us of learning that the shrine was built, Diane, by your Father Al Brodeur, in thanksgiving for your mother, Eldora Brodeur' cure from cancer, and that "there are interesting stories regarding travelers that have prayed to Mary as a result of seeing the statue. Also, a Boston TV station broadcast a special on the shrine."

Do you have a videotape of the TV broadcast, of which you would be willing to have a copy made for me? Or if not would you be able to inform me of the name of the TV station and the date or approximate date of the broadcast so I could write to them to see if they could provide a copy? Could you write me a brief description from memory of the content of the broadcast? We are archiving information on notable Mary Gardens for the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio, and would like to obtain a copy for them.

Our postal address is:

Mary's Gardens
Box 30290
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Also the Mary Page of the Marian Library website, at www.udayton.edu/mary/main.html

is developing a listing of notable Mary Gardens, and persons to contact about them. Would you be willing to have them list your names and e-mail address for those interested to contact? Some do not wish to provide such information for reasons of privacy, and we understand and respect this, so if not, the Mary Page would simply list the location of the shrine on the Mass Pike. On the other hand, those with a mutual interest in the Flowers of Our Lady develop warm relations, and keep in touch by e-mail.

Finally, Dianne, when was the shrine built? And do you recall if your Father had any particular inspiration for building the it - such as from a friend, or from a magazine article or radio broadcast - or was it an original expression of his love for Our Lady and thanksgiving for your mother's cure?

Hoping for the favor of a reply, and with prayerful best wishes for a holy Lent, I remain,

Sincerely yours, in Our Lady

John Stokes Mary's Gardens

"Look on the flower, think of Mary."

(Excerpt from 1980 letters to Bonnie Roberson, per June 16, 1980, above)

9 Mar 2000 Michael to John - Re. John's exchanges with Diane and Bud

Received your email to Diane and Bud.

I'm off to school momentarily and will make this brief.

I have 2 or 3 emails exchanged between me and Diane and Bud which I shall download and sent to you later today.

They have received a great deal of attention in the past regarding the shrine, and have expressed the thought that they are "a bit frightened of publicity". We probably want to 'take it slow' in opening up a dialogue with them - as my email implies. They also need to be assured of the intent and use behind requesting information from them.

I may have jumped the gun in implying that I would contact them later regarding more information (see last night's e mail). However, I felt not rushing and giving them time to acclimate to this new development would be more productive. I was going to even suggest that I guide them through a journal of their experiences - since they expressed the thought that they were not completely comfortable with computers.

I need guidance from you on my role and how I can help in this matter. My Massachusetts home is less than ten miles from the shrine. Retiring at the end of May gives me no set timetable to return to Florida this summer and so, if you wish, I can spend some time with the Fontaines, at which time they would probably share their collection of newspaper articles on the shrine.

It may or may not be easier for them to provide information to one destination. Your kind and wise thoughts on how to proceed.

The emails to Bonnie are great reminiscences and I'm glad you have shared them with the Fontaines. A whole new world is opening up to them this week.

9 Mar 2000.2 Michael to John - Diane's and Bud's concerns for privacy

FYI. the e-mails mentioned in this morning's message. Please note their concerns. We don't want to violate their trust in publicizing their web address. My cc to you was for informational purposes only.

10 Mar 2000 Michael to Diane and Bud - Michael will be the contact

I have received John Stokes' email to you asking for several bits of personal information about your family shrine. I was initially alarmed, given your concerns about 'publicity'.

I feel obligated to offer a personal apology to you both for possibly violating the confidence you placed in Joe DiFabio - and me - by initially giving Joe your permission for me to use your e-mail address to contact you about the shrine.

My sole intention in contacting John Stokes was only to inform him of our progress.

If you have responded to John's requests for information, I can assume you have not been offended by his request - and do not consider his contact with you a violation of this trust. If you wish to continue talking to me about the shrine, I would be pleased and honored.

My concern is that you have inquiries coming form two sources - and this could be overwhelming, confusing, and superfluous. Please let me know your feelings and preference on this matter, since I do not wish to jeopardize our new friendship.

With best wishes, and another apology...

10 Mar 2000.2 Michael to Joe - Michael will be the contact

I have sent an apology to Diane and Bud since I felt the appearance of John's email to them was a breach of the trust they had placed in you regarding the use of their address. My fault - since I only intended to inform him of our progress.

I shall also send him a request later to avoid emails to you - since this is not your personal computer. Our emails have been brief for that reason. Your last one was only two words long - a third longer had you not used a contraction!!!

10 Mar 2000.3 Diane to Michael - First details about shrine

I have to admit that I am a bit overwhelmed with all this news about my Dad's statue and with trying to learn the computer, so much so that I mistakenly deleted John Stokes letter. I had copied it, but am not sure where to send his email. You have no need to apologize though. I have no problem with answering questions. My main concern about publicity is that I have been frightened a few times (after newspaper articles about Mary's statue appeared in newspapers) with people who came and seemed a little bit fanatical and talked about getting people to donate money etc. I know that that is not what my parents wanted. I am not quite ready to put our email on the web, but perhaps a little later on I will. I am very happy to answer any questions you or Mr. Stokes have and welcome Mr. DiFabio and his family and you and Mr. Stokes to come visit the shrine. We are quite busy with family and do go away in the summer quite often, but you need only to call or email and we can set up a time.

I will try to gather together the newspaper articles and video tape to share with you . It may take me a little while as I will have to have one of our children copy the tape. (The poor kids have to do everything that deals with electronics for us.)

I'll try to give you a little more information now and hope that you will share it with Mr. Stokes and Mr. DiFabio.

My mother had breast cancer in 1963. She was a very strong person and handled it beautifully. My Dad on the other hand was having a very hard time with it. He was a chain smoker and enjoyed a drink and promised to give up both if she recovered. He did that and then (I'm not positive of the year) but in 1964 or 1965 he decided to erect the statue on his property next to the turnpike to inspire people to pray the rosary. He was a farmer, but not a handy man at all. We used to tease him a bit because our mother often told him how to do the handy work. However, he put up the statue on his own using stone from the walls of the farm. We also teased him about that, saying that the Blessed Mother must have kept those stones together herself all these years. The idea was all his own, but I'm sure my mother guided him a little bit too.

There are numerous nice stories of people who have stopped there through the years, but I will save those for later.

My mother died in 1981 after a hard struggle with another cancer. The Blessed Virgin, her Son and I'm sure all the saints in heaven were with her through it all as she never uttered a word of complaint. My father had a hard time, and a couple years later he remarried, but before he did he turned the farm over to my brother, Alfred A. Brodeur. He is single and not too handy either so he asked my husband and I to live at the farm and caretake it. He lives up the road from us. Anyway, now it is my husband, Bud who cares for the property and around the statue. I guess I've rambled, sorry. When I write about my parents, I have to look through the tears as they were wonderful parents and I miss them even though I know where they are and that they still help me every day.

My Dad died in November of 1998 at the age of 88. When he was really failing toward the end and I knew how much he would love to see his Mary one more time, I expressed my feelings to my husband. As always, Bud always figures out a way. He took out his old tractor with a bucket on the front, padded it with rugs, lowered it to the ground so that my Dad and I could sit in it, raised it up a bit and drove us up to the statue. A very short time after my Dad had to go to a nursing home where he died 11 months later.

I'm sorry if I've rambled on too much. If you have questions, please feel free to ask them and I'll try in the future not to give you more information than you're probably looking for.

God bless you!

10 Mar 2000.4 John to Michael - Joy over first information

You write on March 9th, with attachments: FYI. re. the emails mentioned in this morning's message. Please note their concerns. We don't want to violate their trust in publicizing their web address. My cc to you was for informational purposes only.

Sorry I jumped the gun with my message to the Fontains. I misinterpreted the statement in Joe's message to you of March 6th which you forwarded that "They gave me permission to pass on their e-mail address" to indicate they would welcome e-mail correspondence from any of us.

I treasure the copies of your beautiful exchange of messages with the Fontains you forwarded, and will of course comply with your thoughtful counsel that our communications with them should be through just one of us - of course, through you.

Their simple faith, shining through their message to you, is the very stuff of true devotion to Our Lady, as set forth by St. Louis de Montfort: interior, tender, holy, constant, disinterested - and is what is at the heart of Mary Gardening.

A joy that your follow-through in searching for those behind this shrine has uncovered this treasure of Marian spirituality, and I indeed hope they will be disposed, as you gain their confidence, as neighbor (when in Massachusetts) and friend, to share their file of clippings etc. regarding the shrine with you.

Prayerful best wishes to you for a holy Lent.

10 Mar 2000 Michael to John - A treasure of Marian spirituality

Thanks for your reassuring email this morning regarding our relationship with Diane and Bud Fontaine, and how to proceed with this unique opportunity..

Establishing a friendly and reassuring rapport with the Fontaines will - I suspect - bear much fruit.

Since this is the only private Mary Garden shrine that we know of where we can construct a personal record and history demonstrating as you said "their simple faith, shining through their message to you, is the very stuff of true devotion to Our Lady, as set forth by St. Louis de Montfort", this correspondence may well prove to evolve into a classic in its own right on this subject.

I received a beautiful response from Diane yesterday. Here is an important excerpt on publicity and the need to approach this opportunity discreetly:

" My main concern about publicity is that I have been frightened a few times (after newspaper articles about Mary's statue appeared in the newspapers) with people who came and seemed a little bit fanatical and talked about getting people to donate money. I know that this is not what my parents wanted."

I guess we don't want to encourage another event such as has taken place at other shrines - Lourdes coming to mind. It is also important to note that no apparitions took place at the Fontaine shrine, and no headlines occurred at the shrine either. All matters revolved around - but did not take place at - the shrine. Therefore, the whole story will involve reminiscences of events and healings resulting from acts of faith of which the existence of the shrine is a symbol.

Another amusing excerpt - which I know you will appreciate, and probably is typical of these treasured memories - is the following:

"My Dad died in November of 1998 ath the age of 88. When he was really failing toward the end and I knew how much he would love to see his Mary one more time, I expressed my feelings to my husband. As always, Bud always figures out a way. He took out his old tractor with a bucket on the front, padded it with rugs, lowered it to the ground so that my Dad and I could sit in it, raised it up a bit and drove us up to the statue. A very short time after my Dad had to go to a nursing home where he died 11 months later".

Is this not a "treasure of Marian spirituality" in the making? And of excellent prose!

More later; I have a date for lunch with someone very special (my wife Bernadette) - and I'm late!

12 Mar 2000 Michael to Diane and Bud - Let the Holy Spirit guide us

I did not want another day to go by without acknowledging and thanking you for your prompt and inspiring email.

I am on vacation from school this coming week and will write more in response to it later.

Please do not feel 'overwhelmed'. John Stokes has agreed that all correspondence and sharing about your shrine take place between you and me. This should set you mind at ease regarding this.

If you wish to send John the e-mail you composed to him, his email address is marysgardens@mgardens.org

If you do, please send me a copy 'for the record'. You may do so my typing my e-mail address in the box labeled CC: This way, a complete record of correspondence on the shrine will be collected in one place.

I have sent John two excerpts from your Friday email: the concern you have about the people who seemed ' a bit fanatical' (I thought this was important for him to appreciate), and the wonderful story of Bud and the tractor.

I have suggested to John - and he has agreed - that your sharing about the shrine is a personal gift and should in no way involve publicity about the shrine. What ultimately results from our sharing should meet with the complete approval of you and Bud, and your family - and what purpose God might have.

Our goal now should be to record the happy as well as sad experiences surrounding the shrine for its own sake, since the establishment of the shrine by your parents is, in the words of John Stokes in his email of yesterday "the very stuff of true devotion to Our Lady, as set forth by St. Louis de Montfort: interior, tender, holy, constant, disinterested - and is what is at the heart of Mary Gardening". It is the only Mary Garden shrine we know of that possesses such a wonderful family history and is a classic example of a personal and family work of Faith.

In regard to putting your email on the web, may I make a few comments on this. At present, you can be contacted via email by only those to whom you give your email address. This insures access to it by friends and relatives with whom you can easily be in contact personally, and who can get in touch with you also.

I have a missionary friend in Papua New Guinea whom I can talk to as easily as I talk to you - even though he is half-way around the world. We are sharing about a new library added to the seminary there, and his attempts to furnish it with shelves, furniture and books for the native seminarians there in New Guinea.

He has been there for thirty years. His address is his personal email address - not a website - which, if it were, would give him no control over who contacts him.

'Putting your email on the web' implies setting up a website that anyone can access if they choose. A website would be set up for a particular purpose, as the mgardens.org website for Mary's Gardens - to which anyone coming across it can access. Personal correspondence does not require a 'website'. Anyway, enough of that! If you have questions on this, I'll be glad to expand and clarify.

Let's let the Holy Spirit lead and guide us in this project. Everything should be done according to His timetable - and without feeling 'overwhelmed'.

Thanks again for your e-mail. I shall contact you early this coming week with a reply, specifically about your precious family reminiscences.

P.S. Have you accessed the article on the Mary's Gardens website yet about your family garden written by John in 1997? If not, here are the directions again:

  1. go to Internet access, and type the address mgardens.org to reach the Mary's Garden website. Give it about ten seconds to fully download.
  2. cursor down to the section titled GARDEN PRAYER AND MEDITATION
  3. click on the title Wayside Flowers and Shrines of Our Lady
  4. there are two pictures: one of a garden in Wareham, and yours in Warren
  5. the email John Stokes sent to you with the attachments about seeing your shrine in June of 1980, were addressed to Bonnie Roberson in Idaho who - up until her death - had a huge herb garden filled with herbs named after Our Lady. It was Bonnie who pioneered the idea of dish Mary Gardens for back yards, schools, and shut-ins. I'll give you the directions for articles on Bonnie at another time.

15 Mar 2000 Michael to Diane and Bud - Further questions

This week's vacation has delayed my follow-up of Sunday's email. We have done some day tripping and, I must admit, it is a welcomed change from the structured routine of teaching school. However, here I am again.

In spite of my warning to you not to be 'overwhelmed', I find myself likewise overwhelmed by the wonderful history associated with your family shrine to Our Lady. John thought it was a statue of Our Lady of Grace. Is he correct?

Please do not feel embarrassed by 'rambling on too much'. Thoughts and stories which come to mind at a moment's notice should probably be pursued and written down before they vanish. Sometimes it is difficult to reconstruct a memory the second time - something is not quite the same. Again, having a written record of it will also assist in expanding upon that memory - when it is reread again at a later time. So if you ramble, I'll be pleasantly surprised!

I don't know where to continue or begin. I thought maybe taking things in sequence would be a good idea. However, when a thought triggers another memory, it should be pursued, even if it takes your thoughts in a different direction. Again, capturing a thought is probably the intent of the Holy Spirit and should not be ignored.

You are graciously open to questions so I might jump in to things by asking about your mother's illness - this would be the sequence approach!! (With diversion, if you think of them!)

My understanding is that your mother was healed of cancer once, due in no small way to your father's great personal sacrifice. Would you care to share about these events, and how your Dad came to his self-sacrificing decision? I expect the most wonderful memory would be the events surrounding her healing.

You also alluded to his building of the shrine and how Our Lady must have been the one to keep it from falling down. Could you share your memories on the building of the shrine, especially why your Dad chose such an undertaking. Was he devoted to Mary? Also, it might be interesting to record where the statue came from. Was it one already in the family? Did it have a special meaning before your mother took sick?

My wife, Bernadette, needs help making a meatloaf! Must sign off. Anticipate your next reply.

19 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Gathering information from family

We're happy you got to have a little vacation! I am working on gathering the information which I think is important about my parents and their statue. I have contacted my sister and her children , my brother, and my children asking them all for a little input. I'm sure they have memories that I don't and they are all so important to my parents that I wanted to do this. As I get letters from them, I will try to forward them to to. ( I will print them first just in case I don't succeed.) You can do as you wish with the information. As you can see, my vocabulary and writing skills are very limited, and I know that you can put all of the information together beautifully. I also went to Staples yesterday and copied some old newspaper articles that will give you information, but I don't believe I have an address to mail them to.

The letter I will forward to you now (hopefully) is from my sister, Jeanne's son. He is the oldest grandchild of my parents and my sister, her husband, George (now deceased) and her children were living with my parents at the time the statue went up. They had moved back here from California when my Mom got sick and were waiting to find an apartment. I hope this works for you.

God bless you and your family!

16 Mar 2000 Diane to nephew Mark Baptiste - Request for information

Dear Mark,

As you may already know, I have been contacted by some people who are gathering information about Pepere's statue. Would you please email to me the memories you have of when Pep was putting it up and anything else about it that you wish to share. Of course, this is only if you want to. It's going to take me a long time and a lot of e-mailing, but when I get all the info to the man I'm dealing with he will be putting it together for the Marianist Fathers at the University of Dayton where they have a website on Mary's gardens. Please join me in prayer to the Holy Spirit that we do this right, also to Pepere and Memere to guide me to do as they would. Thanks for your time. I know how busy you are. Please give our love to all your family!

Auntie Dodo

19 Mar 2000.3 Mark to Diane - Memories of grandfather

Auntie Dodo,

Thanks for doing this project on Pepere's shrine to Mary. It's a lot of work for you. It will be a nice remembrance of Pepere and Memere. I wish my memory were clearer. I do recall going with Pepere and my brother David to the site near the Turnpike. Pepere showed us the spot in the clearing where Reed Street used to run, which could be seen clearly from the turnpike. That's where he wanted to place the small white statue of the Blessed Mother. He wanted it high enough to be seen well so we would build a pedestal for her to stand on. We gathered stones from the woods and brush nearby and brought them to the spot. Pepere carefully selected the ones he wanted and showed us where to stack them to build a round base. He mixed some cement (I can't remember if it was in buckets or a little trough. We must have used water from the brook just down the hill), and carefully troweled it in among the stones to hold the base together. When it was just the right height, he built up a little mound of cement and then carefully set the base of the statue of Mary so she stood straight and faced the Turnpike.

For many years as I travelled with my family to visit relatives and friends in Eastern Massachusetts We developed a ritual of calling, "statue on the right" as we passed her. All the kids would sit up or wake up to see, and think of Pepere and Memere on the farm we were passing. It always reminds me to say a prayer of thanksgiving as we pass. Thanks to Pepere, she's reminded thousands of others to do the same.

I remember how strongly Pepere's faith in God and devotion to the Blessed Mother were shown that day, in the care he put into building that shrine. I remember praying thanks to God for giving my brothers and sister and me the chance to get to know firsthand the love of Memere and Pepere, our grandparents. I am also thankful that because of Memere's return to health, my wife Jan and my boys got to know her. And though Melissa was born just after Memere died, (Memere knew somehow that she would be a girl) she was born on Pepere's birthday and always had a special bond with her "twin". Thanks again for doing this project on the shrine. I'm glad it's there to remind travelers to think of God and as a reminder of his love for our family. Hope you and Uncle Bud are well. Love to the family.

Mark

19 Mar 2000.2 Diane to Michael - Whole Family excited about project

Here I am again! I'm really sorry for doing this, but every time I get the computer all shut down I think of things I should have said and this time I've decided to get back on to tell you that I realize that I'm probably sending you much more that you're looking for and it's perfectly all right for you to just use what you want to. Our whole family is a little bit excited about this and I think we see it as a way to pay tribute to two wonderful people of faith who lived their life for each other, their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and just about everyone they knew.

To better answer your question about my mother's illness I will give you my memory of that time. You will see more from her in the newspaper article. She had stopped working about 2 years before. She had been a cashier in the local A&P in our very small town. I was expecting our 3rd child and when we would come to visit, which was very often as we lived only about 1 mile away, I noticed that she was very tired, sometimes nodding off as we spoke. She was so quiet and never complained, but one day told me that she had been to the Dr. and that she would be going for a mastectomy. I was very frightened, but she never let on that she was and her strength got all of us through her bad time. A year later, I don't even know how we knew that she was cured. I think it was because my father and she just knew it as it was only after 5 years that the doctors said she was. My father was always devoted to Mary and my mother to St. Joseph. I remember saying the rosary together after supper every night while we were doing supper dishes. It's a good thing that today I know how understanding Our Lord and His Blessed Mother are because back then I had fears of burning in hell for the laughing fits I would have because every little thing seemed funny at that time.

Well, I promise I will not turn the computer back on today, but I don't promise not to send more stories because as you said, one memory sparks another. In case you're wondering, I am 59 years old, my brother is 67 and my sister is 69. My mother was 691/2 when she died on February 16, 1981 and my father was 871/2 when he died on November 4, 1998.

Wishing you a great day!

19 Mar 2000.4 Michael to John - Amazing results!

Correspondence with Diane Fontaine on the family shrine has produced some amazing results. In reviewing my notebook on the "Fontaine Mary Garden", I counted 43 e-mails so far, beginning with the mention of the Warren shrine to Vincenzina on February 7th, to three e-mails today from Diane.

The 'amazing' results include contacting "my sister and her children, my brother, and my children asking them all for a little input". An especially interesting note today reads: "our whole family is a little bit excited about this and I think we see it as a way to pay tribute to two wonderful people of faith..." Diane's mother died in 1981; her father was 87 when he died on November 4, 1998.

My purpose in writing to you today is to ask if you would like me to forward the email exchanges between me and Diane? I know they are numerous and lengthy - and will only scratch the surface if one considers the letters and newspaper clipping she intends to send me.

("I also went to Staples yesterday and copied some old newspaper articles that will give you information...") However, they are so informative that I almost think you would like to keep up-to-date (even from the sidelines) on what is happening with this project. However, still, I don't want to clutter up your 'mailbox'.

By being familiar with our progress and exchanges, you might also suggest pertinent questions or considerations for me to ask which may escape me. I don't want this to be an additional burden on you, but I thought you might like to be kept posted, at least. I shall be willing to handle all correspondence, but do not want it to keep piling up without your knowledge and good counsel concerning this unusual opportunity.

My impression so far is that this shaping up into a combination of St. Therese's "Story of a Soul", and Frances Hodgson Burnett's turn-of-the-century classic "The Secret Garden". I don't quite know where it's going, or where it will end, but certainly appears to be a story of "two wonderful people of faith who lived their life for each other, their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and just about everyone they knew" ( email 3-19). We have to contend with maintaining their privacy, on the one hand, and organizing the research into a useful lesson on the impact of Marian spirituality.

"My father was always devoted to Mary and my mother to St. Joseph. I remember saying the rosary together after supper every night..."

Your kind thoughts and advice on this matter.

20 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Forwarding letter from Becky

The next letter I''m forwarding is from our youngest daughter, Becky.

She was born in 1971 and is the next to the youngest of my parents grandchildren. She lives about a mile away from us now. Since we moved here , to Sunnybrook Farm, our middle daughter, Melanie Stanton and her husband Richard bought the little house where Bud and I brought up our family-a mile up the road from my parents. Then our oldest daughter Lisa Gerstel and her husband, Dana built a house on that same property and a few years later, Rebecca and her husband, Christopher Jones built a house between Melanie and Lisa's, so our 3 daughters and their families are very close. Our son, Joseph, lives with his wife , Laura and their 3 children in Montpelier, VT. There is a lot left for him here near his sisters should he ever decide to move back, but we doubt that will happen as he loves VT.

I will send Rebecca's letter now. I'm asking St. Joseph's blessings for you and your project today.

19 Mar 2000.4 Becky to Diane - Letter from Becky

The first memories I have of visiting Mary are walking up the soft mossy path picking handfuls of little wildflowers along the way to lay at her feet. We (Pepere and I) would say a prayer. I would always wonder exactly what he was saying in his loud whisper of half French half English prayers but I could tell by his solemn face that he meant what he was asking of her. My usual requests were for World peace and to take care of my family. After our prayers we would always take a few minutes to make the trailer trucks on the Massachusetts Turnpike honk.

I can remember being so amazed that Pepere went to her everyday and prayed. At that time it seemed to me like a very long walk.

My most recent and fondest memory was seeing Pepere, though he was not able to make the walk, riding in the bucket of my father's old blue tractor, even though he was petrified, up the path to visit Mary. His dedication to her was always that strong. He made a promise to her for prayers of his that were answered and he never broke it.

I now have the pleasure of taking my three sons up the path to visit Mary, and telling them the story of why she is there. I know they might not understand it now but when they get older they will and I hope they pass it on to their children like it has been passed on to many. Of course, each time our prayers are finished, we have to stop and make the trailer trucks on the Mass Pike honk.

I hope that our Mary will stay where she is forever as a reminder to all of the people who pass by and see her to have faith and hope and to pray.

Rebecca Jones

20 Mar 2000 Michael to Diane = Rebecca's letter precious

Thank you for the insight into your father's unswerving spirituality and dedication to Our Lady as shared by Rebecca in today's email. As these individual stories accumulate, the more a framework appears to be forming in which to place all these wonderful memories.

You are fortunate to be surrounded by so many family members. Sunnybrook Farm must cover a substantial area. This proximity of family members provides a great opportunity to easily share about family memories surrounding the shrine.

Does the bridge over the turnpike to the west of the shrine carry the new route for Reed Street, part of which I guess now is a private section of the original road which traversed the farm and now dead ends at the shrine?

My wife Bernadette and I were amused to think that waving to the truck drivers on the turnpike became a joyful ritual and that it still continues! I wonder how many people stop by the side of the road and visit the shrine as John Stokes did in the 1980's. How far from the nearest house on your farm is the actual shrine?

Rebecca's expanded details about your father's visit to the shrine are precious. She notes that the tractor was blue, and that "he was petrified."; priceless and important details to your family history. Does Bud still use the tractor, or is it no longer a working farm?

Is Bud the official caretaker of the family shrine, planting, pruning, etc. or is this a family project in which some of the younger members of the family help out? With Spring here he must have begun plans for preparing the shrine for the steady stream of travelers along the turnpike who anticipate his extraordinary handiwork. How does he go about rejuvenating the shrine each spring and deciding on the variety of plants? Is it still illuminated at night, or during certain times of the year?

As you may now know - after surfing the Mary's Gardens website - each plant and flower has a Marian name. I suspect Bud, and your entire family, would be curious about these Marian names. There are several articles on the website which contain lists of flowers and the equivalent Marian names. If you would like, I can send you hard copies of the articles via postal mail for Bud to look over and enjoy.

Enough for now! I'm sure St. Joseph will take notice of this project - after all, Mary was his beloved spouse.

20 Mar 2000.2 Michael to John - Forwarding note from Rebecca

As a follow-up to last evening's email, I am forwarding to you this sample of the memories coming from members of the Fontaine family.

This note was sent to Diane by her youngest daughter, Rebecca.

I thought you might especially enjoy the last two paragraphs.

20 Mar 2000.3 John to Michael - Beautiful expressions of simple faith

Yes, I indeed hasten to accept your offer to forward to me copies of the email exchanges between you and Diane, etc..

Through the years we have received many penciled notes on scraps of paper from people requesting information on Our Lady's flowers that have a word or two or a sentence that discloses a profound simple faith in Our Lady, but these exchanges from Diane - nurtured through your tender, loving care - are a unique, beautiful expression of such faith in writing, made possible in the context of the Mass Pike Wayside Shrine.

They can be, and are already, a treasure inspiring to all of us similarly attuned, but who are perhaps of more convoluted expression. As you allude to, "The story of a Soul" is an instance where such simple, loving faith was put into the written word. Bonnie Roberson was sensed to be such a person by all who came into contact with her or received her letters, and I have perhaps 100 taped letters from her that Paula has offered to transcribe after we get our written correspondence in digital form.

These will be the real treasures of Mary's Gardens, not my apologias - necessary as these may be to present the Flowers of Our Lady to the more critical and scrupulous devotees, and non-devotees.

I hope before too long to be able to set up a Simple Devotion and Photo Sharing "Chat Room" (not the right words) section on the web site - for which the tone could set the tone with some of the one or two sentence "testimonials" I typed up in 50 pages or so from our first four years' inquiry and order letters - in which I will look to you for assistance.

20 Mar 2000.4 - Diane to Michael (paper) - Here are the newspaper articles

Dear Michael,

Here are the newspaper articles I told you I would send. I have to add some feelings concerning the last one of 10/19/97 . We aren't sure that we like the white arbor around Mary. Mr Ruggero has wonderful intentions and he did pay for the material (Bud built it) and the new bridge, which Bud also built, is wonderful. My Dad agreed for it all to be done, but most of us in the family liked seeing Mary there among the trees etc. We think that some time in the future, when it can't offend Mr. Ruggero, we will take the arbor down. We're not sure.

You said in your e-mail that you plan in coming here this summer and we will enjoy meeting with you then. Bud and I have a trailer in Westerly, R.I. where we spend a lot of summer time, butwe can be home on the farm any time. I an giving you our home phone no. (we have none in R.I.) so that you have more than e-mail to let us know when you know you're coming (_________).

I also ant to take the time to thank you so much for what you are doing and please be assured of ur prayers for your intentions when we visit Our Lady.

Sincerely, Diane

P.S. I just thought of another bit of information that might interest you. My mother made many hundreds of rosaries, some for the Rosary Makers and some for family and friends, from right after her first illness in 1963 to almost up to her death.

21 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Further information

Today I will put the newspaper articles in the mail to you, but now I will try to answer a few questions.

Sunnybrook Farm covers about 160 acres-some on both sides of the turnpike. The bridge west of the shrine is New Reed St which continues east to meet Reed St. (where we used to live and our daughters now live. Their property was not part of Sunnybrook, but part of the "little" 18 acre farm that Bud and I had bought to not be too far from my parents) and we are now on Old Reed St. which part of goes to W. Brimfield and the other here to the dead end. The town owns and maintains to our barn, but has turned the rest of the way to the statue over to us which is why we have to maintain the wooden bridge to get there. It is about 1/4 mile from our house to the shrine.

Yes, Bud uses the blue tractor quite a lot. He bought it not too long after we moved here because it had the bucket on it which he uses to haul the wood we heat with, to pound down fence post etc etc. We also use the old red Farmall that my dad bought around the early 1950's, but it is the blue Ford that helps Bud the most. In 1985-86 Bud had two major back operations, a heart attack and by-pass surgery all within 11 months. He returned to work 6 months after the by-pass only to be carried out again this time with pericarditis. After 25 years at Warren Pumps Inc. he was forced to leave due to poor health, but I think he's much healthier now than he was then and I also know why. Dad's Blessed Mother takes care of him and he does take good care of her.

We do keep a few animals just for our own meat and a few for pets for the grandchildren. We just sold the 2 little beef calves we had this time though as they were not growing as we would have liked. In the fall we will buy 1 or 2 more Angus calves from a farmer we know and like his animals.

Most of the flowers at the shrine are put there by strangers and we try to take care of them. Yes, many people stop on the pike and cross the fence to the statue. It's funny, but the turnpike people never repair where the fence is pushed down and little steps have been sort of gauged out of the banking. We had given honeysuckle bushes to my parents years ago and planted them behind her, but they too over and we had to remove them a few years ago.

The statue is illuminated every night all year. We used to have it on a timer in the barn which often went on or off at the wrong time. Now we have an automatic sensor on it which works much better.

I have enjoyed seeing some of the Marian names for flowers. I especially noted bluets, Mary's eyes as there are so many of them on the way to and at the statue. I am not good with flowers at all, but our oldest daughter, Lisa, is quite the gardener. She's a teacher's aide at our local elementary school and is in a hurry for summer vacation so she can study more of the Mary's Garden website.

A little more about the lighting of the statue-My sister's family , brother, we and our Aunt and Uncle (Joseph and Yvonne Brunell) from Worcester gave that to my parents for a wedding anniversary gift. It was quite a project as we had to dig to put the wire underground from our barn to the statue. My Brunell cousins along with their parents all contributed either by buying some of the material or helping us dig. My Aunt Yvonne (my mother's sister) has since died. Without their help we probably would not have been able to do the job.

Well, I'd better close this now so that I can go get ready to go down town to get the newspaper articles in the mail. I still don't have the video tape copied, but will mail it as soon as I do.

God bless you and Bernadette!

22 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Phone message from nephew David

My nephew, David Baptiste, phoned me today to tell me his memories of helping his Pepere put up the statue along with the other grandchildren and especially his older brother Mark (you have Mark's already).

Dave remembers using an old red wagon to pull the stones in. At the site he helped Pep mix the cement (couldn't remember in what) and helped with putting up the base with instructions from Pepere, but when it came time to put the top and Mary on he remembers telling Pepere that he should do that himself because it was his thing that he was doing for Memere.

David was 11 years old at the time. He asked me to type this for him as he's a little uncomfortable writing himself, but the above are his words.

Thank you again for all that you are doing. I'm sure you will be very blessed by our Blessed Mother!

23 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Forwarding letter from niece Laura

The letter I just forwarded was from Laura (Baptiste) Mullein, my sister's 3rd child. She is 39 years old and lives with her husband James in West Springfield.

Have a great day!

23 Mar 2000.2 Laura to Diane and Nud - Letter from niece Laura

Hi Auntie Dodo and Uncle Bud,

I'm sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I'm very happy that the shrine will be in the spotlight again. Thank you so much for carrying on this special tradition and for always taking such beautiful care of the shrine.

I do have memories of wet cement being mixed by Pepere and of me picking up little pebbles from the ground to stick into the cement. Although I must have been very little, I knew it was very special and important. The statue has always been and will continue to be a "touchstone" in my life. I travel the Mass Pike quite often and always look for the statue to say a prayer for Memere & Pepere, Daddy and all of our relatives that have left us. If I miss my glimpse, I am always disappointed.

I can't tell you how many times I have told Pepere and Memere's story of love and faith to people from all over New England. Everyone always knows of the statue and to a person have always wondered about the story behind it. I believe hundreds, if not thousands of people (people we will probably never know) feel a connection to the statue. What a remarkable legacy! I have always felt very blessed and proud to have been a small participant in such an amazing story. The statue will always represent our families faith and love and the bonds that brought our family together and turned me from a California Girl into a staunch New Englander!

Thanks again and I hope everything works out well for you.

Love,

25 Mar 2000 Diane to Michael - Forwarding message from daughter Lisa

We just got home from Mass to find the email I just forwarded to you from our oldest daughter, Lisa. She was born in 1960, the same year we bought our little farm. The house had no plumbing etc. so we moved in here at Sunnybrook with my parents and a brand new baby so that we would be close so that Bud could make our house livable. He worked on it every night after his real job and finally after another baby, our son Joseph was born and we were still here with my parents, we were able to move in to our own little place before our third was born in 1963. My poor parents were very patient through it all and I only realize now how hard it must have been for them then. Anyway, that is one of the reasons that my children are so close with their Pepere and Memere.

Have a great weekend!

God's blessings to you and Bernadette!

25 Mar 2000.2 Lisa to Diane and Bud - Message from daughter Lisa

At my age, unfortunately some memories are beginning to become too far away to remember, and then there are some things that happen in your life that have such a profound effect on you that you could not forget them if you tried. One such memory for me is the day Pepere decided to have me help with work on the statue of the Blessed Virgin. My Grandfather, as you may already know, promised to place a statue of the Blessed virgin in a noticeable place, if my Grandmother survived a bout with cancer. Well, luckily for all of us, she did survive and lived another fifteen wonderful years.

Pepere made me feel so important, giving me such a big job. He asked me to choose and place pebbles all around in the cement that the Blessed Virgin sat atop. I did my job, careful to place each stone in what I felt was just the right spot. Many little stones, yet such a big job. Pepere reminded me many times through the past several years, that we had worked together to do something special and how well I had done that little job.

Many people helped with the job of putting that statue up. Pepere gave each of us something special to do so we all had taken part when it was all done. Even today it is a special place to visit, a place where all the grandchildren can walk to together ,"without any grown-ups," and feel safe. That Blessed Virgin statue was put up as a promise from my Pepere, but she has had many more jobs since my grandfather placed her. To my family she is a special reminder of the amazing bond we shared with two very, very special people and the faith they passed on to us and so many others.

Thank you Mem and Pep!

Lisa and Family

25 March 2000.3 Michael to Diane - Newspaper articles arrived

Just a brief acknowledgement to let you know that the newspaper articles you were so kind to sent to me arrived safely in today's mail. I am grateful for your special effort in preparing them from the originals. I have read each one and was especially touched by the impact "Our Lady of the Turnpike" has had over the years.

Thanks also for the e-mails you sent earlier this week. You are indeed blessed with a wonderful family whose obvious love for Our Lady has, over these many years, made her known to many others.

I shall reread your e-mails and newspaper articles for comments.

More later!

Thanks again for continuing to share this wonderful story.

25 March 2000.4 Diane to Michael - Postal Letter of 20 Mar with newspapers

Correct anchor for 2004.3)

Here are the news[a[er articles I told you I would send

26 Mar 2000.2 Michael to John - Summary of information so far

As of today, I have a total of 51 e-mails regarding the Mass Turnpike shrine.

I have downloaded each one to a disk, as well as printed and placed all of them into a three-ring loose-leaf notebook. I have just finished consecutively numbering each one for reference purposes. Some are very brief, but others run to as much as three or four pages with 'header' and 'return-path'. I'll save a second abbreviated, text-only copy - as well as the original - for the sake of brevity, and send these to you sometime in the near future. (Right now, my wife Bernadette's health is not good and its taking its toll on my own health and free time; hopefully things will improve!)

Some interesting facts (as they come to mind ) so far:

  1. The farm on which the shrine is located is known as Sunnybrook Farm.
  2. The shrine is known to some as "Our Lady of the Turnpike"
  3. Diane has contacted her whole family regarding this new project, and they are responding with enthusiasm and support.
  4. She has forwarded me several responses from them already.
  5. Her oldest daughter is quite a gardener, and will begin researching the MG website when school lets out in June.
  6. One niece was present at the building of the shrine base and has sent Diane two reminiscences so far.
  7. Diane and Bud are retired and three of their daughters live in homes built on the farm property. This will be helpful in gathering reminiscences.
  8. Diane and Bud spend their summer on the Rhode Island shore but have agreed to meet with me this summer.
  9. Diane's mother survived 15 years after her healing, and spent much of her time making 'hundreds' of rosaries for the Rosary Makers, family, and friends up until her death.
  10. According to one email from a niece in Connecticut, the shrine has become a well-known landmark ( and prayer stop ) among travelers over the years.
  11. The shrine is well-known to the Mass Turnpike Authority which has seen fit not to fix the break in the fence which allows access to the shrine from the turnpike.
  12. A man by the name of Joe Ruggiero discovered his fiance had a fatal health condition. She entered Baystate Medical Center where the doctors offered no false hope. When he left the hospital that night, he didn't go home. He drove to the Madonna on the Turnpike. He stayed there about an hour. Before leaving he made a promise: if Mary granted him this favor ( his fiance's healing) he would make her turnpike spot even more striking. The next morning the doctors at Baystate gave Joe Ruggiero's fiance a clean bill of health. To bring the story to a quick conclusion, Joe Ruggiero gave $500 towards enhancing the shrine. (Springfield Sunday Republican Article - Oct. 19, 1997)
  13. Money left at the shrine is used to illuminate the statue at night.
  14. et cetera, et cetera. Wonderful stuff!

I received photocopies yesterday from Diane of five newspaper clippings about the shrine. I shall transcribe them and save them to disk to forward to you with the e-mails. Diane mentioned that someone is working on reproducing the video.

Accompanying the news articles was a personal letter to me containing the following paragraph: "I also want to take this time to thank you so much for what you are doing and please be assured of our prayers for your intentions when we visit Our Lady."

NB: Evidently many people have left scraps of paper at the shrine containing petitions or prayers of thanksgiving. I'll be anxious to find out if these have been preserved.

27 Mar 2000 John to Michael - Appreciate your thoroughness

In addition to your loving thoughtfulness in gaining Diane's trust in regard to family information from the heart regarding the Mass Pike wayside shrine - 51 e-mails so far plus clippings, tapes, etc. - your thoroughness in preserving and organizing all this information is producing a real treasure.

As I alluded to previously, the external aspects of Mary Gardens, the history and research etc., are essential to the preservation of their tradition - just as the "institutional" Church is necessary to the preservation of the revealed deposit of faith; and external Marian devotions such as novenas, Rosary society and sodality meetings, etc. are essential to the preservation of Marian devotion - but, as St. Louis de Montfort counsels, the essence of Marian devotion and recourse in prayer is interior, tender, holy, constant and disinterested", and it is this that is at heart of what is being shared here.

However, in keeping with the documents of Vatican II, it is important also that we keep in mind the distinction between this true interior Marian devotion and that which is "superstitious" and "exaggeratedly emotional", rather than "disinterested" - which when mixed in with the true, tends to obscure the true, so that many people can dismiss it all, without discovering or acknowledging the true.

The fact that the shrine was established in thanksgiving, rather than personal petition, makes it truly disinterested, and this seems to have pervaded the family's three generation continuation of the shrine - notwithstanding that others may have approached it "interestedly".

"Interested", as well as emotional and superstitious devotion to Mary can indeed be an important beginning, but as I see it we should hope to let the true aspects of Marian devotion shine through.

30 Mar 2000 Michael to John - Springfield Republican article

Attached please find news article, the first in a chronological series sent to me in the mail by Diane. This is item 57 in the collection of correspondence. All articles in the newspaper series will be given the reference code 57; each individual item will be letter-coded. 57-A is a cover letter which I shall add later.

NB: John / Joe - Any questions on the shrine? Please email them to me and I'll pass them on to Diane.

o O o

Sunday Republican, Springfield, Mass., June 5, 1977 p. 14

Statue marks a gift of life

By Marcia Blomberg Republican Staff (scan of photo)

Alfred Brodeur tidies up at the site of a statue he erected as a promise to God.

WEST WARREN -- If a traveller passes through here on the Massachusetts Turnpike and raises his eyes from the road, he might see a man kneel down by a roadside statue of the Virgin Mary.

Two worlds exist within a half-mile of each other in the hills and hollows of West Warren. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, time is only to be passed and space is only something to be passed through on the way to appointments in or between Albany or Boston.

The only hint of the other world--a quiet, still farm on a dead-end road--is given by that small white statue of the Madonna on the Turnpike.

Many who see the statue think it marks the site of a tragic accident. What the statue commemorates, however, is the saving of a life.

To find the man who erected the statue near the pike, one must travel back roads far from the pike.

But, to discover the reason Alfred Brodeur put up the statue is easy. He and his wife, Eldora, welcome visitors seeking the story behind the statue near their home at Sunnybrook Farm on Reed Street Extension.

"I wasn't a drinking man, but I took a beer now and then. My wife was sick, and had a serious operation. It was a promise I made to God and the Blessed Mother, that if my wife was better, and got well, then I wouldn't take a drink, and I would put up the statue," Mr. Brodeur said.

That was back in 1963. Mrs. Brodeur had had two operations before that last, most serious one.

"I was worried," Mrs. Brodeur said. "I had had embolisms (blood clots) in the operations before. But this time I had cancer, and within 48 hours after the operation, another embolism. So you can never tell." Mrs. Brodeur did live to tell the story, however. Fourteen years later, she is a healthy, active woman.

In 1964, a year after her operation, when Mr. Brodeur was sure that his wife was cured, he erected the statue. He cleared a spot near the pike, covered it with lush grass, built a pedestal of stone and mortar with his own hands and placed a small statue on top. He planted honeysuckle given by his daughter, behind the statue, and in recent years has placed other plants donated by relatives around the state.

"He had his own idea of where to put it, not for decorative purposes, but purely for inspiration, and it seems to work," Mrs. Brodeur said.

"I put it there in tribute to the Blessed Mother, so people would go by and think of her, whether they believe in her or not," Mr. Brodeur said. "Those that believe in her say a little prayer, and those that don't still think of her."

One person who thought of the statue and its reason for being is Dolores Carpenter, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and wife of Rev. Joseph Carpenter, pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Springfield.

She talked about the first time she saw the statue from the turnpike.

"I guess it would have to go back about five years, maybe more. We would make trips from time to time to Boston. We'd always talk about it and wonder about it," Mrs. Carpenter said.

"One day in particular, as we were going by, my husband called my attention to the fact that there was a man kneeling there in prayer. So then we realized that it had some greater meaning to someone," she said.

"About two weeks ago, I was facing surgery and I'd been offered a position at a college in St. Louis, so I was facing a lot of decisions," she continued. "one day we were feeling low so we decided to go out and see if we could find the statue. We followed back streets, and, miraculously, we found it. We came to a house at the end of a dead-end street and Mr. Brodeur came out to the car. He and his wife were very nice to us immediately. We said we were trying to find the statue and he admitted it was on his property."

"I felt it was interesting that he had erected it because of his wife's surgery, and I was facing surgery. I asked him to remember me when he went out there to pray," she said.

Mr. Brodeur mentioned two other visitors to the statue.

"A few years back, there were two priests that came, a young one and an old one," he said. "They asked to see the statue, and my son took them out. The old one said to my son, 'someday this will be a shrine.' "

Mr. Brodeur doesn't seem to care if the statue becomes famous or not.

"I don't want some big, elaborate thing, I want something simple," he said. "It means an awful lot to me just to be able to go and say my morning prayer there."

Mrs. Brodeur said, "It's kind of an intimate place to be. I've often thought of things I'd like to do down there myself."

Though Mr. Brodeur is 67 years old, a former dairy farmer and retired worker after 19 years at the former Warren Pump shop, he still works hard each day to maintain his farm.

He says he doesn't always have enough time to do as much as he wants to around the statue.

"That bothers me because I like to see the place clean and there's always a lot to do," he said.

Mrs. Brodeur, with one sentence, illustrated the difference between the rushing world of the pike and the calmer life at Sunnybrook Farm.

"Well," she said, "if we don't get it done today, there's always another day."

2 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Further shrine information

Thank you for the newspaper article which we will have one of our children show us how to put onto a disc. I am still waiting for more memories and comments from some family members which I will send you as they come in.

One little story which keeps popping into my head. When my parents were still here on the farm a man appeared at their door one day and asked in broken English ( he was Polish) if there were something that he might do around the statue in thanksgiving. He had been in a serious car accident (I'm not sure where) and had been pronounced dead at the scene, but somehow was revived. He attributed it to the Blessed Mother as he had a rosary in his car and felt that it was her who saved him. My Dad could only think of one thing that needed to be done at that time and it was that she needed to be painted. The man said he would do it. We never saw him again after that, but for several years after we would find her with a new coat of paint.

Years later, when she again needed paint, Bud and I approached a man who was repainting all the outdoor statues at St. Anne's Shrine in Fiskdale, MA. to ask for some tips on what to use to keep the paint on better. When he realized which statue we were talking about he insisted on coming out here with all his equipment, sandblasting her, repairing her nose ( the tip had been broken) and painting her. He would take nothing for all his work. Since then Bud and I have only had to paint her one time (about 6 years ago) and the paint is staying on much better.

I thought when I read that when Mr. Stokes saw her in 1980 with new paint that it might have been after the polish man had painted her and that he would probably be interested in the story.

There are many more which I will save for later. I must go get ready to go to a reconciliation service this afternoon. Our granddaughter/Goddaughter will be receiving the sacrament today for the first time. She will also be doing a reading. All of our grandchildren are special for different reasons. This one, Liana Eldora, was adopted by Melanie when she was born. Eldora is for my mother. She's a little girl who overcomes many obstacles and is just a super kid!

God bless you and Bernadette!

2 Apr 2000.2 Michael to Diane - Thanks for further information

Thank you for today's e-mails. I'm sure David has many more memories of his grandfather which will come to mind. Both of today's stories capture memories of your Mother and Dad that are obviously precious to your very blessed family.

I shall be busy the next few days with school work and progress reports, and will try to work on the new articles.

In the meantime, you might pray about your last thought in this evening's email.

You mentioned "thank you again for all that you are doing." Have you wondered what you would eventually like to see happen to all these precious reminiscences?

They most certainly have brought joy and inspiration to your own family over the years. Maybe Our Lady will reveal the answer at the right time.

Spring is on its way - and, so too, the Flowers of Our Lady.

3 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Form in which to present information?

I hate to bother you when you are so busy, but you don't need to reply to this email. I just wanted to answer right away to your question about what I would like to see happen with all the reminiscences. When this all started, what I had assumed (shouldn't do that) was that the Marianist Fathers were looking for more information about our Mary to go along with what Mr. Stokes had already provided. Maybe that wasn't even right, but anyway, when you gave me the chance to send you everything and when I saw how beautifully you write, I figured I'd just send it to you in my own words and you could use them to do whatever you wish. Whatever is finally done doesn't matter to me, but I don't want to burden you too much. I've always believed that our Blessed Mother will see to it that what she wants will happen. Even when I was a bit frightened after that newspaper article I spoke with you about I asked her to take care of it and everything just quieted down. I really don't look for publicity or "limelight", only what my parents wanted-to spread devotion to Her. I do want to study more about her flowers now, even though I have no green thumb at all. I think she will show us what she wants near her-maybe just what grows wild there-and what so many other people put there-I don't know yet.

As for my belief that Our Lady will have what she wants - another little story. A few years ago a large parcel of land which borders ours was being offered as a place for hazardous waste to be dumped and a few years after that for a race track. Of course we wanted neither of these things so close and many people were upset, but I just gave it all to her and neither of those things happened.

I'm not sure why all this came up just now about the statue, but I know it has been a little gift to me to be able to sit here and say wonderful things about my wonderful family and not feel like bragging. We have had many ups and downs like every other family and have been far from perfect, but in every bit of misfortune we've had, we have been blessed with so much help from God, His Mother and I guess all the saints in heaven. It just amazes me how He works. He truly is an awesome God!

I will pray that Our Lady will have done just as she pleases with all of this and for you too.

3 Apr 2000.2 Michael to Diane - Have you checked Mary's Gardens website?

I'm never too busy to talk about Our Lady.

Thanks for another great story; namely, Mary's intercession on behalf of protecting her shrine.

Two quick - but important - housekeeping questions:

  1. Do you have direct access to the world wide web/Internet, as well as the capability of corresponding by email?
  2. If so, have you seen the Mary's Garden website yet?

It would be helpful for me to know.

Thanks.

4 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Daughter Melanie's recollections

Yes we do have access to the world wide web and yes I have seen the Mary's Garden website. I have it bookmarked and have not read every single thing, but do go to it quite often. I have to admit that some of what I've read is over my head or it just doesn't all sink in, but I will continue to look at it often. Some of the things I've taken from it are an interest in which kind of flowers to put there, and although the statue was blessed by our local priest when my Dad put her there, I would like to have it done again by the pastor we have now, using one of the blessings I saw in that website.

This morning our daughter, Melanie, gave me a hand written paper with her memories on it which I will type for you now. She is our 3rd born and the one who lives with her family in the little old house we brought her up in. She is also the child I was carrying in 1963 when my Mom had her mastectomy.

Before I go to it, I just want to say one more time that whatever happens with all that I've sent you doesn't matter-even if nothing at all. Our Blessed Mother has given us all a chance to do some wonderful reminiscing. I thought it interesting that Melanie wrote very similar things as her sisters and none of them have seen what the other wrote. I will be anxious to see what our son does. He's a procrastinator so it may take some time. Now I've rambled again and poor you have to read it all.

My memories of the statue -- Melanie (Fontaine) Stanton

I remember mostly when I was a young girl, walking to the statue with Pepere because he would go each day to say his prayers. It was a little scary crossing the old bridge to get there, but then a race to see who could get there first after we did cross. We couldn't wait to go make the trailer trucks TOOT their big horns. That was a big treat! We also got to pitch rocks down in the brook.

There wasn't much Memere and Pepere didn't let us do. Then we always took time to say at least one prayer. Pepere always said his prayers in French. I tried to understand what he was saying but couldn't. Sometimes he would have us say a prayer out loud so he could learn it in English. He always made us feel so smart and special.

Another time I remember is when we got to dig the ditch all the way from the barn to the statue to bury the cable for the light so Mary would be lit up at night. Before that Memere and Pepere had this neat fluorescent light to bring up to shine on her.

My last memory with Pepere was his last visit to the statue. We had all gotten together for one of our special summer campfires at "The Farm" and I'm not sure who's idea it was but my Dad who has always been good to and shown his love to Memere & Pepere very lovingly and carefully drove his tractor with the bucket on the front with Pepere in it (because he could barely walk anymore) to visit his shrine. We all walked along so happily and proud to be going to the statue one more time with "Our Pepere"!

I love and miss him very much and I thank you for giving me an opportunity to remember how lucky I was to have the most special Grandparents in the world.

4 Apr 2000.2 Diane to Michael - Further recollections

I didn't want to wait any longer to answer some questions, but will have more on this subject a little later when I view the video tape we made on the evening of Dad's last visit to his shrine. I will also have Lisa add that piece of tape to the other video she will make to send you.

I do remember that 2 of our daughters and their families were here, The Stantons and the Jones. Melanie's close friend, Patty Bishop was also here with her 2 sons, Justin and Jesse. Patty's little daughter, Katie, had died at the age of 11 just a few months before and she and her family were really hurting. Katie was a wonderful child who had been sick since birth, but was a ray of sunshine to everyone. She had sat on my Dad's hospital bed a few months before her own death, making everyone laugh and touching Pepere ( she called him that too even though not related by blood) and telling him that she would pray for him . He loved her too and would always ask about her. I'm sure that now he and Katie together can go to Our Blessed Mother to intercede for Patty who has MS, is still grieving and having a hard time to understand why God took her Katie. It's one of those things, I think we understand, but certainly know why Patty isn't there yet. Maybe you can have a little intention for that family while you are doing all the work of reading this and putting it together.

I also remember that night that my Dad wanted a toasted marshmallow really badly and we didn't give him one as one of his major problems was diabetes. Now sometimes I wish I had just given him one. After he went to the nursing home where the nurses could keep tabs on things we were given permission to bring him a little of the little things he loved like the sap from the maple trees Bud tapped for maple syrup making and then a little bit of the syrup from "his farm".

Dad didn't have to ask about the shrine when we went to visit, which was daily, because I always made a point of telling him everything that went on with it, and always asked for his advice and approval before doing anything different. We always asked for advice on anything we did on the farm and I knew he loved it when we asked for advice about the cows or cow we had at the time. He loved his farm and farming.

I'm trying to think of other ways he and Mom showed devotion to our lady. One of my Mom's ways probably was that she was as perfect a Mother on earth could be. I'm sure she took her example from Our Blessed Mother as she taught us by example more than anything else. She never said a whole lot, but when she did it always made such good sense. She is my idol and as much as I try, I will never be as good as she was and she did it in such a humble, quiet way. When she made all those rosaries, she was having a lot of pain in her arm and fingers at the time. We thought then that it was all from having had the mastectomy, but now since my brother and I have some of the same problems , we realize it was probably more that one thing. When she felt lazy(that's how she put it, but we know she was sick) she would put her time to good use by making and donating all those rosaries.

I think I mentioned before that my parents always wanted a Mary statue on their lawn, but decided to put it up near the turnpike so that many more could see her and have devotion to her. We also said the family rosary almost every night.

Now one more little story. One time when my Dad was praying at the statue a man came off the turnpike and angrily asked him what he was trying to prove by kneeling there praying to a statue. My Dad (who could get angry quickly at times) said very calmly "do you carry any pictures of anyone you love in your wallet?" When the man replied that he did my Dad just said "Well, looking at this statue while I pray just makes me think of The Blessed Virgin Mary who I love, and I'm not praying to the statue, but to her." Now wasn't that a great answer for a little old farmer who went only as far as 5th grade in school! His devotion was genuine.

I think "Brodeur Mary Garden" should be the name on your file.

Lastly, I'm happy that you, Bernadette, enjoy my emails. I always feel like I'm getting carried away with them, but I too am home and I think it's giving me something to do that I feel is important. I look forward to meeting you when summer comes!

Take care and God bless you both!

4 Apr 2000.3 Michael to Diane - Further questions?

Glad to hear you are becoming familiar with John Stokes' research. Don't worry about trying to digest paragraph-long sentences. I had the same reaction. John calls his writing "apologias" - Latin for 'you may not get it the first time"!

Thank you for Melanie's reminiscences of your Dad's last visit to the shrine. It's wonderful to see such willing participation in this project by so many members of the family.

She mentions that it took place during "one of our special summer campfires at 'The Farm' ...we all walked along so happily and proud to be going to the statue one more time with "Our Pepere."

It would be valuable if someone could expand upon (individually or collectively) about this 'last' campfire with you Dad, and who went to the shrine on this last visit with your Dad and anything that was said or done by him or others present.

I know this may be asking the impossible, but since it was a significant event for your Dad, there may be more importance attached to a small gesture or word than was realized at the time. Sometimes hindsight allows us to place a value on something which, at the time, seemed ordinary or unimportant. Did he ever ask about the shrine in your subsequent visits with him?

Also, is there anything you recall demonstrating your Mother and Dad's devotion to Mary. You have mentioned that he said his daily prayers there at the shrine; if nothing else were said, I suppose that would be a sufficient testimony to his devotion to Mary. You also mentioned your Mother making rosaries - anything more about the rosaries?

* * *

You should know that "the file" is growing. I have a total of 65 e-mails in a notebook, as well as the copies on a disk. (Bernadette is home all day and looks forward to seeing your e-mails - she wanted me to tell you so.)

It would be helpful for the record to type something in the "Subject" box to distinguish each email from another - just a suggestion, if you can oblige!

One other 'housekeeping' question. My notebook with the collection of e-mails is titled "Fontaine Mary Garden". Do you think it might be more appropriate - from now on - to refer to the garden as the "Brodeur Mary Garden"? Any thoughts or suggestions on this?

Thanks again for parting with a few more family jewels!

7 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Further information

I didn't want to wait any longer to answer some questions, but will have more on this subject a little later when I view the video tape we made on the evening of Dad's last visit to his shrine. I will also have Lisa add that piece of tape to the other video she will make to send you.

I do remember that 2 of our daughters and their families were here, The Stantons and the Jones. Melanie's close friend, Patty Bishop was also here with her 2 sons, Justin and Jesse. Patty's little daughter, Katie, had died at the age of 11 just a few months before and she and her family were really hurting. Katie was a wonderful child who had been sick since birth, but was a ray of sunshine to everyone. She had sat on my Dad's hospital bed a few months before her own death, making everyone laugh and touching Pepere ( she called him that too even though not related by blood) and telling him that she would pray for him . He loved her too and would always ask about her. I'm sure that now he and Katie together can go to Our Blessed Mother to intercede for Patty who has MS, is still grieving and having a hard time to understand why God took her Katie. It's one of those things, I think we understand, but certainly know why Patty isn't there yet. Maybe you can have a little intention for that family while you are doing all the work of reading this and putting it together.

I also remember that night that my Dad wanted a toasted marshmallow really badly and we didn't give him one as one of his major problems was diabetes. Now sometimes I wish I had just given him one. After he went to the nursing home where the nurses could keep tabs on things we were given permission to bring him a little of the little things he loved like the sap from the maple trees Bud tapped for maple syrup making and then a little bit of the syrup from "his farm".

Dad didn't have to ask about the shrine when we went to visit, which was daily, because I always made a point of telling him everything that went on with it, and always asked for his advice and approval before doing anything different. We always asked for advice on anything we did on the farm and I knew he loved it when we asked for advice about the cows or cow we had at the time. He loved his farm and farming.

I'm trying to think of other ways he and Mom showed devotion to our lady. One of my Mom's ways probably was that she was as perfect a Mother on earth could be. I'm sure she took her example from Our Blessed Mother as she taught us by example more than anything else. She never said a whole lot, but when she did it always made such good sense. She is my idol and as much as I try, I will never be as good as she was and she did it in such a humble, quiet way. When she made all those rosaries, she was having a lot of pain in her arm and fingers at the time. We thought then that it was all from having had the mastectomy, but now since my brother and I have some of the same problems , we realize it was probably more that one thing. When she felt lazy(that's how she put it, but we know she was sick) she would put her time to good use by making and donating all those rosaries.

I think I mentioned before that my parents always wanted a Mary statue on their lawn, but decided to put it up near the turnpike so that many more could see her and have devotion to her. We also said the family rosary almost every night.

Now one more little story. One time when my Dad was praying at the statue a man came off the turnpike and angrily asked him what he was trying to prove by kneeling there praying to a statue. My Dad (who could get angry quickly at times) said very calmly "do you carry any pictures of anyone you love in your wallet?" When the man replied that he did my Dad just said "Well, looking at this statue while I pray just makes me think of The Blessed Virgin Mary who I love, and I'm not praying to the statue, but to her." Now wasn't that a great answer for a little old farmer who went only as far as 5th grade in school! His devotion was genuine.

I think "Brodeur Mary Garden" should be the name on your file.

Lastly, I'm happy that you, Bernadette, enjoy my e-mails. I always feel like I'm getting carried away with them, but I too am home and I think it's giving me something to do that I feel is important. I look forward to meeting you when summer comes!

Take care and God bless you both!

7 Apr 2000.2 Diane to Michael - One negative thing that happened

After sending the last email I felt that I should tell you that in all the years the statue has been there, the story about the man who thought Dad was praying to a statue was the only sort of negative thing that every happened there or concerning the statue and I have a feeling it turned into something very positive.

Thanks again for your time.

8 Apr 2000 Michael to Diane - Springfield Union News Article 7-3-87

The July 3rd, 1987 newspaper article from the Springfield Union News appears below. It was indeed a pleasure once again rereading this story about your Dad's inspiring devotion to Mary.

o O o

Springfield Union News, Springfield Mass., Friday, July 3, 1987

She's an inspiration to travelers

In her 23 years, Alfred Brodeur's "Madonna" in West Warren has become a landmark along the Massachusetts Turnpike

(Photo)

Turnpike Landmark -- With traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike flowing past, background, Alfred Brodeur recites the rosary in front of the "Madonna of the Turnpike" in West Warren, which he erected 23 years ago.

Since then, the statue is annually visited by many hundreds of travelers.

By Tom Shea

With no apparent sign of trouble, the pea-green Plymouth with the emergency lights flashing eased its way into the eastbound breakdown lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike in West Warren last week.

A mother and son emerged gripping rosaries. While cars whizzed by, they stood at the guard rail facing a white statue of the Virgin Mary more than 100 feet away in a manicured grove. They bowed their head and recited a decade of the rosary in Spanish.

"My mother is not well and we are going to Boston to visit a doctor," said 48-year-old Victor Hernandez of Springfield. "It makes her feel better to stop here and say her prayers."

Ina Hernandez, a woman in her 70's, who speaks little English, said she has great devotion to "Mary, the mother of God."

"She always hears my prayers," she said.

Alfred Brodeur placed the two-foot-high cement statue of Mary on a ruggedly handsome three-foot-high boulder pedestal in a clearing overlooking the turnpike in the spring of 1964.

He did it for God.

In 1963, Eldora Brodeur, his wife, was sick with her first bout with cancer.

"She had a very serious operation and I promised God and the Blessed Mother if she got well I would build the statue," Brodeur said. "She did. And I kept my promise."

By keeping his promise and by erecting the statue on his property visible to both sides of the turnpike, Brodeur's handiwork has become a landmark: The Madonna of the Turnpike, a source of inspiration and curiosity to many who travel the pike between the Palmer and Sturbridge exits.

* * *

"Originally I thought I'd put the statue by the babbling brook behind the house, but I wanted to put it somewhere special

for the Blessed Mother where it would inspire people," Brodeur said.

"I thought if people saw the statue they would think of her and say a little prayer."

A Roman Catholic with a special devotion to Mary, Brodeur is a robust and friendly 77-year-old Warren native, who facially resembles Henry Kissinger.

He spent much of his childhood in Canada and worked most of his life as a dairy farmer on his 100-plus acre Sunnybrook Farm, and as an employee of the Warren Pumps before his retirement 15 years ago.

Brodeur purchased the plain statue of Mary at a now-forgotten store in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield.

"I didn't want something big and elaborate," he said. "I wanted something simple and pure to honor her."

Through the years, hundreds have stopped at the statue, leaving letters, rosaries, money and flowers. For years an anonymous elderly Polish-born man from Springfield would show up each year to paint the statue.

The letters are sometimes neatly written, others scribbled hurriedly on napkins or scraps of paper, usually thanking Mary for favors granted or asking for help.

* * *

The occasional dollar bills stuffed into the rocks of the pedestal are used to help pay the electricity bill to keep the 100-watt spotlight shining on the statue after dark.

Some have followed the path through thick forest behind the statue and walked the quarter of a mile to the Brodeur homestead to either thank the family, or to hear the story of the Madonna.

"Recently, a truck driver, huffing and puffing, knocked on the door and asked if we were responsible for the statue," said Diane Fontaine, Brodeur's daughter, who now lives at the farm with her family.

"When I said we were, he said he has been meaning for years to stop by and thank us. He told me the statue of the Blessed Mother means a lot to him. He then turned around and ran back to his truck."

When the spotlight didn't shine on the statue between February and June, State Rep. Paul E. Caron, D-Springfield, started a personal investigation.

"I was concerned because the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a beacon to many of us who travel the pike and I've long viewed the shrine as a symbol of peace and contentment," Caron said. "I was relieved to hear it was loggers on the property who accidentally cut an electric cable leading to the statue and the family planned on re-lighting the statue when the logging job was completed."

The light was turned back on the Madonna on June 5th, the day before John Paul II opened the Marian year with a world-wide saying of the rosary on international television.

"It wasn't planned that way by Bud (Brodeur's son-in-law, Elmer Fontaine)," Brodeur said. "And I believe it's more than a coincidence. Our Lady had it planned that way."

* * *

The most persistent myth concerning the Madonna is that the statue commemorates the site of a fatal accident.

"I don't know where that got started, but I've heard that one a lot," Alfred Brodeur said. "The statue of the Blessed Mother represents a life being saved, not a life being lost."

Eldora Brodeur recovered fully from her first bout from cancer, but the cancer returned in 1979 and she died at the age of 69 in 1981.

"She never complained or cried the last two years of her life...and she really suffered," Diane Fontaine said. She always said, "Don't cry for me, I've gotten everything I wanted out of life."

"She really believed she was given 15 extra good years from Jesus through his Mother. And, when she died she was ready and died peacefully with her family around her. Just before she died we saw her lips move. She said "I love you." "

In recounting the story of his wife's suffering and death, Alfred Brodeur cried.

We were married 51 years, four months and 16 days," he said. "God was good to us. He gave us those last 17 years together."

Brodeur remarried four years ago, sold the farm to his son and moved to North Brookfield with his wife, Rose Gomez.

He still drives a car and volunteers delivering hot meals to the elderly shut-ins. He also still says his daily rosary on his knees.

* * *

On his frequent return visits to the farm, Brodeur always includes a trip to pray in front of the statue.

"I used to say my morning prayers out there everyday," he said. "So now I make it a point to visit when I come to the farm. The Blessed Mother is in good hands with Bud, he keeps the place looking pretty."

The Fontaine's usually take a stroll down to the statue each evening.

"It's very peaceful down there," Diane Fontaine said. "You wouldn't think so with all the cars going by on the pike, but it is."

The statue has a shrine-like appearance with honeysuckle, rhododendrons and roses filling in the spaces behind the statue.

"Many yeas ago two priests came to the door and asked to see the statue," Brodeur said. "My son took them out and the older of the two priests said to my son, "someday this will be a shrine." "

* * *

Victor Hernandez said his mother noticed the statue almost five years ago when her trips to doctors in Boston began.

"She felt it was a godsend," he said. "She almost couldn't believe it The first time she saw it I had to use my brakes and go in reverse in the breakdown lane to find the statue. I thought she was seeing things."

Hernandez said he now knows the spot by heart.

"Like I said, it make her feel better to stop here," he said. "She would like to pray the whole rosary kneeling in front of the statue but she couldn't get over the guard rail and the fence (which divides the Brodeur's property and the pike's), so she stands here and prays."

On the trip home, Hernandez said his mother says a silent prayer when they drive past in the westbound lane of the pike.

"It's even more beautiful, lit in the dark," he said. "I think it's wonderful someone thought so much of the Blessed Mother to build something like this. They must love her as much as my mother does."

8 Apr 2000.2 Michael to John - Progress reports

The collection of e-mails on the Brodeur shrine is approaching 70. More later on this wonderful response from Diane and her family. I have three other news articles still to be typed.

9 Apr 2000 Michael to Diane - Springfield Sunday Republican article 10-19=00

The October 19, 1997 newspaper article from the Springfield Sunday Republican appears below: another item for your electronic collection

o O o

Springfield Sunday Republican, Springfield, Mass., October 19, 1997

Keeping a promise to God

By Tom Shea

Joe Ruggiero first noticed the statue about 10 years ago while cruising down the Mass. Pike on his way to visit relatives in his native Lawrence.

Somewhere between the Palmer and Sturbridge exits, he did something of a double take.

"You don't expect to find something like that off to the side of a turnpike," Joe Ruggiero says. "So simple and so beautiful."

He offered a quick Hail Mary as he passed, and he promised himself, like the good East Hartford cop he once was, to find out the story behind the statue.

Joe Ruggiero called the state police in Sturbridge and talked to a man who knew the whole story of the Madonna of the Turnpike, who told him how in 1964, Alfred Brodeur of West Warren placed a plain two-foot cement statue of Mary on a three-foot-high pedestal of field stones in a clearing overlooking the turnpike. And how it was an act of thanksgiving.

The previous year, Alfred Brodeur's wife, Eldora, had been stricken by cancer. Her husband promised God and the Blessed Mother if his wife got better he would erect a statue. When Eldora Brodeur did - she would live 17 more years - Alfred Brodeur made good on his promise. Originally he wanted to put the statue by the babbling brook behind his 100-acre dairy farm, but decided to put it somewhere special. So Alfred Brodeur placed the statue on his property visible to both lanes of the turnpike. It is now a landmark, a source of inspiration and curiosity to many who pass.

Joe Ruggiero loved the story. Admired how Alfred Brodeur's son, Al, and son-in-law Bud Fontaine, kept the property surrounding the statue so pristine, so shrine-like, especially at night with the 100-watt spotlight illuminating the simple statue.

Like so many others during the past 33 years, the man who will be 85 in January has dared to do the dangerous, pulling into the emergency lane and climbing over the guardrail to pray before the statue. He has also planted roses and come across rosaries, the notes, the money left by people, requesting help or thanking Mary for favors received.

A couple of months ago, Joe Ruggiero's fiance was told she had probably a fatal health condition. She entered Springfield's Baystate Medical Center. Doctors offered no false hope.

When he left the hospital that night, he didn't go home. He drove to the Madonna on the Turnpike. Joe Ruggiero didn't so much pray as beg Mary for a favor. It's not his style to pray for something for himself. He usually concentrates on the intentions of others. He stayed there maybe an hour. Before leaving, he made a promise. If Mary granted him this favor, he would make her turnpike spot even more striking.

The next morning, the doctors at Baystate gave Joe Ruggiero's fiance a clean bill of health. The two took the news as a prayer answered.

"Mary did her part," Joe Ruggiero says. "Now it was my turn."

He approached Al Brodeur and Bud Fontaine with ideas, and an offer of $500 to enhance the site.

The first result is a white vinyl arbor that now shields the statue from the elements. Oak planks for improving the rickety bridge on the Brodeur property that allows easier access to the statue from West Warren is on the agenda. Joe Ruggiero is even trying to talk the family into building a staircase up the hill from the turnpike to the Madonna.

Alfred Brodeur, now 87 and hobbled by a variety of health problems, recently was brought to the renovated site and was moved by its new beauty. He was once told by two priests that this spot born of thanksgiving would some day be a shrine.

Joe Ruggiero didn't know that part of the story.

Like Alfred Brodeur, he was just another grateful man, keeping a promise to God.

9 Apr 2000.2 Michael to Union News - Further articles?

I have recently been given a collection of news articles written by members of your newspaper staff.

The articles concern the statue of the Madonna on the Massachusetts Turnpike in West Warren.

The articles specifically are the following:

"Statue marks a gift of life", Marcia Blomberg. The Sunday Republican. June 5, 1997.

"She's an inspiration to travelers", Tom Shea. Springfield Union News. July 3, 1987.

"Keeping a promise to God", Tom Shea. Springfield Sunday Republican. Oct. 19, 1997

My immediate concern in writing to you is to obtain further news articles about the shrine in West Warren which may have been published by your local newspaper group.

Would it be possible to be put in contact by email with the reference librarian at your newspaper for further information? Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. My e-mail address is . . . .

10 Apr 2000 Michael to Joe - Follow-up report

The time you and Marie put into contacting Diane Fontaine has brought great results. Thanks again!

I have a total of 69 e-mails on the West Warren shrine. Diane has been generous in sending me background information about the family history on this. I'll bring the file with me this summer. She and Bud are looking forward to our visit; they spend the summer in Westerly, but will be glad to meet with us. Three of Diane's children live on the farm property (Sunnybrook Farm) with her.

10 Apr 2000.2 Joe to Michael - Thanks for info

Thanks for the info. I hope Bernie is feeling better. When are you heading up here to God's country?

15 Apr 2000 Michael to Diane - Boston Magazine article July, 1990

Here is the Boston Magazine article, the last of the series you kindly sent to me regarding your family Mary Garden. All the work you went through in preparing each one is very much appreciated.

A MASS. PIKE PRIMER

Boston Magazine, July 1990

LET'S FACE IT. A LOT OF BOSTONIANS WILL NEVER BREAK AWAY from the Cape and New Hampshire to explore their own backyard. To those people -- and you know who you are -- western Massachusetts will never be anything more than a collection of pine trees and exit ramps whizzing by on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

So here's a special guide answering your questions about the west -- all seven of them.

Who built the Madonna shrine on the eastbound side of the pike in Warren?

The Virgin -- who seems to guard the gateway to western Massachusetts from her perch near the mile 67 marker -- was built by former Warren resident Alfred Brodeur after his wife became sick with cancer. Local legend says that after the shrine was erected, Mrs. Brodeur's cancer went into remission.

She died a few weeks ago, and her husband has moved away,
but family members still maintain the site.

N.B. Two factual inaccuracies occur in this report. Refer to the series of articles on this subject, particularly the following:

"Statue marks a gift of life"

"She's an inspiration to travelers"

15 Apr 2000.2 Michael to Diane

For your electronic files.

Michael U

Article comment: "I believe this was in a Boston paper years ago - I'm not sure. This was the 1st ever printed (to our knowledge).

(Photo)

Our Lady of Grace on rustic pedestal.

Q -- While traveling from New York to Boston on the Mass Pike, just beyond Palmer, around Milepost 68 or 69, headed toward Boston, there's a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Grace on a hillside. I can't see any road to it, but there are always beautiful flowers there all the time and how do they get over to it. -- M.B., Dedham

A -- The statue is in the town of Warren, Milepost 68, eastbound to Boston, according to John T. Driscoll, chairman of the Turnpike Authority, and has caused much favorable comment. It was erected by Alfred Brodeur of Warren on his own property as a tribute to his wife's recovery from a serious illness.

18 Apr 2000 Michael to Diane - Our Lady's Messenger article

The following untitled article appears in the March/April 2000 issue of "Our Lady's Messenger", Vol. 1, No. 2.

"Our Lady's Messenger" is a bimonthly publication of: Our Lady's Rosary Makers, 4611 Poplar Level Road, P.O. Box 37080, Louisville, Kentucky 40233-7080

The chaplain of the organization is Fr. Edwin Scherzer

The article is reprinted from December 10, 1999 Catholic Universe Bulletin

Job's Tears

Students at St. Joan of Arc School in Chagrin Falls are rediscovering the old craft of rosary making. It all started when parent Debra Classen returned from visiting the Abbey at Gethsemane in Kentucky where the monks grow Job's Tears, a plant indigenous to Asia that produces large black seeds. When the seeds dry, they turn to a bluish color and have a natural hole through the center. The monks use the seeds to make rosaries.

Classen said it occurred to her that this would be a great project for the children at St. Joan of Arc School and brought home several seeds so that they could plant their own Job's Tears.

The idea was well-received by principal Shelley Wither who said she thought the project would be a wonderful way to integrate several subject areas at once because the students would be growing and harvesting their plants, using their creativity to string the beads and most importantly, gain an appreciation for praying the rosary.

Classen said the students planted 200 seeds earlier this school year and that so far, the plants have yielded 5,000 new seeds with which to make rosaries.

She said students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade are involved and that their enthusiasm has been contagious to parents, teachers and parishioners.

"I'm really excited about this," Classen said. "It started small and it's growing bigger and bigger. It's really been amazing. The interest and the enthusiasm have been overwhelming."

Classen said she is particularly happy about the support the project has received from the principal, teachers and parents.

"What's neat is that whole families are doing this together," she said. "Some are praying the rosary every night as a family."

Rosaries cost $20 and $25 for a rosary in a velvet bag. The proceeds will go to various Catholic charities, organizations and missions.

Students also plan to plant new seeds in April and keep the project going next school year.

"I'm so proud," Wither said." "It's wonderful, just wonderful and the students love it."

o O o

The above article is followed by the one below:

Do you have any stories of this nature about youth rediscovering making or praying the Rosary? Are there successful projects or activities you would like to share with others about involving teens, school children or young families in rosary making? Let us hear from you so some of these ideas might be shared with others.

Kathaleen Stout, a young lady from Louisville, now studying at St. Mary's University in Minnesota, has been in touch with us regarding developing ways to involve younger Catholics in knowing and understanding more about the Rosary and its many benefits.

She has also submitted the following item for the newsletter, which fits well with many of the newsletter names and the preceding story.

Who are Rosary Makers

Rosary makers are similar to gardeners. I was taught that the rosary is a way of sending Mary, our Heavenly Mother, a spiritual bouquet of roses. Just as any child loves to give their mother gifts of freshly picked flowers, those devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the rosary leave a bouquet of roses at her feet.

The Joyful Mysteries are known as a white bouquet of roses, the Sorrowful Mysteries as a red bouquet, and the Glorious Mysteries as a gold bouquet.

If by reciting the rosary, one is giving Mary a gift of roses then what can be said for the rosary maker that made the rosary that was used for the spiritual bouquet of the roses sent up to Her in heaven?

Perhaps, one can surely say the rosary maker is a gardener. By careful attention and loving dedication, a rosary maker makes a rosary and plants a seed. Each time the rosary is said the seed takes root and is the agent by which the most beautiful bouquet of roses are sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Imagine the joy Mary feels when she looks down at the roses sent up to her through prayers and spiritual reflection; she is pleased for those who recite the rosary and even more so to those who aid the production and distribution of the rosaries that were used to give Her such a gift.

Let us remain steadfast to the Blessed Virgin Mary and never cease in sending her spiritual bouquets of roses through the Rosary!

18 Apr 2000.2 Diane to Michael - Thanks for "Our Lady's Messenger articles

Thank you so much for sending the interesting article from "Our Lady's Messenger" It was for Our Lady's Rosary Makers that my mother made so many rosaries.

I'm sorry I didn't answer sooner. My mother in law has been very ill so we try to spend time with her and we have also been very busy in church. What a wonderful way to be busy! Our pastor guided us through a some beautiful Lenten prayer.

Another little story which I find interesting--The mention of Brother Brian, a Capuchin missionary. Well, my father had a very dear young friend from North Brookfield, Ma who is now studying at St. Francis Friary in Washington . Brother Kip had made a rosary for my Dad which he treasured and held through all his illness. It was the one we put in his hands when he was waked.

Michael, I have a few more stories for you and you're probably getting sick of them. If you want more, I will probably only send them after Easter.

Bud and I wish for you and Bernadette a blessed Easter!

18 Apr 2000.3 Michael to Diane - Happy Easter!

A Happy and Blessed Easter to you and Bud, and your family.

We are very sorry to hear about your mother-in-law's illness. We shall remember her in our prayers.

Speaking of being busy at Church, our parish has published a short pamphlet on how to gain the very special Jubilee Year Indulgence. Are you aware of this special grace?

I shall never tire of hearing -- or receiving -- "a few more stories". Please send at your convenience and liesure.

Glad to hear of the 'Capuchin Connection'. Maybe we can make something of this!

20 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Message from friend Beckie

Message of 7 April from Wendy to Beckie.

Sitting in the back of our old brown station wagon, the first time I saw Her I remember thinking that I was mistaken, but then on the way back I knew I really knew what I saw, I don't remember saying anything to anyone else in the car.

Every time I passed it I couldn't wait to see, and every time I passed it, it meant that I was going or coming back from somewhere special, almost like seeing her meant that everything was going to be alright.

Now as I'm older I always look for Her as if She was an old friend. I never thought I'd ever find Her past and that's what I'm thanking you for, there was many of us that saw Her, and many of us that have memories of Her.

Thanks for thinking of me.

I'll see you soon

Wendy

20 Apr 2000.2 Diane to Michael - Prayers for Bud's mother

I hope that I just forwarded you a note sent to my daughter, Becky, after she sent the MGardens site to Wendy.

I will just tell you a little about Wendy. Becky and I met her a few years ago as our hairdresser. One day when she was doing my hair, I mentioned the statue to her (I really don't remember what we were talking about). She became very excited and told me how when she was little she always made a point of waiting to see Mary before she could go to sleep in the car. She told me too that she had always thought that she was the only one who could see her.

Just another little story. So many people have really been very happy to finally find out who put her there and why. Right now we are including in our prayers a husband and wife-both in their 40's who just found out on the same day that they both have cancer. I ask that you include them in your prayers, please.

Thank you for praying for Bud's mother. Now the nurses are calling her the miracle woman. She is 93 and was so very sick last week that everyone was prepared to let her go. This week she is sitting up in bed, smiling, and enjoying giving her children orders again!

Is the Jubilee Year Indulgence one received for visiting the Jubilee churches? I'm really not sure.

Once again we send our very best wishes for a blessed Easter for you and Bernadette!

30 Apr 2000 Diane to Michael - Going to Rhode Island

I hope this finds you and Bernadette healthy. I'm sure you must be very busy nearing the end of the school year. My reason for writing is that tomorrow Bud and I will be going to our trailer in R.I. for a while.

We have no phone or computer there, but we do keep in touch with our children here. With her permission I am sending you our daughter Becky's email address and ask that you send a copy of anything you send me to her also so that she can keep me informed. . . . .

We do come home quite often and I want to be sure to know when you are planning to come here to the farm. We are only 2 hours away and definitely do not want to miss your visit.

I will probably keep the rest of my "stories" until then. I was hoping to have something for you from my brother, sister, son, and 1 more nephew, but nothing yet. I haven't forgotten about the video tapes either. Time just seems to fly by.

On Easter Sunday morning my mother in law died with six of her eight living children at her side. She went very peacefully and Bud and I think what a beautiful day it was for her to go in the arms of Jesus. Her last smile was for Bud the night before she died and I know that made him happy. She left a total of 126 grand, great grand, and great great grandchildren. She was buried on Thursday and it was quite a reunion of cousins, aunts and uncles.

I'm noticing flowers more! Bud planted a mini rose bush at the statue for Easter. I'm also feeling more and more like saying the rosary which I haven't been as faithful to in the past - not like my parents anyway. So I would say if not more than this comes from our many "conversations" , you will be blessed by Her for inspiring me. I will check for email when I come home and I very much look forward to a summer visit from you and Bernadette.

God bless you both!

1 May 2000 Diane to Michael - Memories from Son, Joseph

Miracles do happen!!!!! I decided to take one last look at the computer before leaving this morning and found this "memories" from our son, Joseph, who lives with his wife and 3 children in Montpelier Vt.

His wife sent them to me in a file and I'm not sure.

1 May 2000.2 Diane to Michael - Miracles do happen!

Miracles do happen!!!!! I decided to take one last look at the computer before leaving this morning and found this "memories" from our son, Joseph, who lives with his wife and 3 children in Montpelier Vt.

His wife sent them to me in a file and I'm not sure if I'm sending it to you right, but I do have a copy just in case I don't. Thank you too for yesterday's e-mail and your sympathy and prayers.

Looking forward to meeting you and Bernadette soon.

6 May 2000 Becky to Michael - Sending Joe's file again.

Hi Michael

This is Becky. I am at Mom's house. We are going to send you Joeoh's file again.

6 May 2000.2 Diane to Michael _ Typing Joe's memory file.

Since Becky wasn't able to send you Joe's memory file either, I am going to type it just as it was sent to me.

I have also just received a note from my sister, Jeanne Baptiste, with hers so I will type hers too.

We are home just overnight for Lindsay's First Communion tomorrow, then back to R.I. and home again on Mother's Day. We've been quite busy trying to get settled down there and Bud and I do a little work at the camp ground to help pay the rent.

We hope both of you are well.

o O o

Joe's memories:

Fishing while Pepere said his prayers, then going back and having fresh trout for breakfast.

Racing each other.

Making little improvements over the years, like a wider path, new plants, light, and a better bridge.

There were times when the statue meant I was home. In my more troubled days, there were times that I hitchhiked home, and seeing the statue or light from the statue meant I was home.

Now as a father, I enjoy bringing my children to the statue, and telling them stories about it.

There are too many memories to write all down. But each walk up the path to the statue brings them all back, and also starts new ones.

6 May 2000.3 Diane to Michael - Sister Jean's reminiscences

Jeannes's memories:

When I was young, my Dad seemed big, tall and strong to me. He was my hero, slow to anger, quick to forgive.

It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized that Dad was really small in stature. He was a simple man with little formal education and not many worldly possessions.

It was as an adult, mother of three and expecting my fourth child, that I truly became aware of Dad's greatness.

My mother was very ill, and Dad promised if she survived for one year, he would give thanks to Mary by erecting her statue. "Not for us to see, but for travelers speeding by on the turnpike. Maybe they would slow for a minute, and say a Hail Mary." The shrine would be a simple but visible symbol of faith.

Years later salesmen would tell me, "I saw your Dad today, saying his rosary." Travelers to and from Boston, looked and paused in their rush, to pray for a moment.

I understood, then, that Dad was a fortunate man. He had his implicit faith in God, his Son Jesus and a true devotion to the Blessed Mother. Dad had achieved more than most. His faith carried him throughout his life. In this simple life, he was a great success.

>7 May 2000 Diane to Michael and Bernadette

  1. Here I finally am to say hello and that I hope you are well. Bud and I have been working a bit at the campground and when we are home on some weekends try to spend a lot of time with family and I just realized that I never mailed you the video tapes I promised.
  2. Actually I thought that we would probably see you before now. Are you still in Florida? I know that you come to W. Springfield, but do you just visit there or do you have a summer place there?
  3. We are having computer problems too, and can rarely get on line when we do come home, so if you answer, please send to Becky's too.
  4. We will be home now for a bit as I am going for day surgery on 7/5 to have a little something removed that showed up in my last mammogram. After that we will stay home until at least 7/11 when I will get results. If I require more surgery or treatments we will probably be here for a while, if not we'll head back to R.I.
  5. I will ask you for prayers again for a young 16 year old girl abducted from our local pond where she went to life guard. It's been a week with no sign of her. She's a great kid from a great family and we're finding out that we have many great people in our town trying to do everything possible to find her and to support her family.
  6. Also last week another great 18 year old girl from town was hit on her bike and is in critical condition so please pray along with us for all of them. My daughters are very busy right now joining searchers and cooking for them too, but as soon as one of them can do the video tapes for me, I'll mail them.
  7. I hope that you are enjoying your summer and to hear from you. God bless you both!

Press Articles

First (?) - Who Puts the Fresh Flowers There?

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19 Oct 1975 - Tell It to Joe

5 Jun 1977 - Statue Marks a Gift of Life

By Marcia Blomberg Republican Staff

WEST WARREN -- If a traveller passes through here on the Massachusetts Turnpike and raises his eyes from the road, he might see a man kneel down by a roadside statue of the Virgin Mary.

Two worlds exist within a half-mile of each other in the hills and hollows of West Warren. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, time is only to be passed and space is only something to be passed through on the way to appointments in or between Albany or Boston.

The only hint of the other world--a quiet, still farm on a dead-end road--is given by that small white statue of the Madonna on the Turnpike.

Many who see the statue think it marks the site of a tragic accident. What the statue commemorates, however, is the saving of a life.

To find the man who erected the statue near the pike, one must travel back roads far from the pike.

But, to discover the reason Alfred Brodeur put up the statue is easy. He and his wife, Eldora, welcome visitors seeking the story behind the statue near their home at Sunnybrook Farm on Reed Street Extension.

"I wasn't a drinking man, but I took a beer now and then. My wife was sick, and had a serious operation. It was a promise I made to God and the Blessed Mother, that if my wife was better, and got well, then I wouldn't take a drink, and I would put up the statue," Mr. Brodeur said.

That was back in 1963. Mrs. Brodeur had had two operations before that last, most serious one.

"I was worried," Mrs. Brodeur said. "I had had embolisms (blood clots) in the operations before. But this time I had cancer, and within 48 hours after the operation, another embolism. So you can never tell." Mrs. Brodeur did live to tell the story, however. Fourteen years later, she is a healthy, active woman.

In 1964, a year after her operation, when Mr. Brodeur was sure that his wife was cured, he erected the statue. He cleared a spot near the pike, covered it with lush grass, built a pedestal of stone and mortar with his own hands and placed a small statue on top. He planted honeysuckle given by his daughter, behind the statue, and in recent years has placed other plants donated by relatives around the state.

"He had his own idea of where to put it, not for decorative purposes, but purely for inspiration, and it seems to work," Mrs. Brodeur said.

"I put it there in tribute to the Blessed Mother, so people would go by and think of her, whether they believe in her or not," Mr. Brodeur said. "Those that believe in her say a little prayer, and those that don't still think of her."

One person who thought of the statue and its reason for being is Dolores Carpenter, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and wife of Rev. Joseph Carpenter, pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Springfield.

She talked about the first time she saw the statue from the turnpike.

"I guess it would have to go back about five years, maybe more. We would make trips from time to time to Boston. We'd always talk about it and wonder about it," Mrs. Carpenter said.

"One day in particular, as we were going by, my husband called my attention to the fact that there was a man kneeling there in prayer. So then we realized that it had some greater meaning to someone," she said.

"About two weeks ago, I was facing surgery and I'd been offered a position at a college in St. Louis, so I was facing a lot of decisions," she continued. "one day we were feeling low so we decided to go out and see if we could find the statue. We followed back streets, and, miraculously, we found it. We came to a house at the end of a dead-end street and Mr. Brodeur came out to the car. He and his wife were very nice to us immediately. We said we were trying to find the statue and he admitted it was on his property."

"I felt it was interesting that he had erected it because of his wife's surgery, and I was facing surgery. I asked him to remember me when he went out there to pray," she said.

Mr. Brodeur mentioned two other visitors to the statue.

"A few years back, there were two priests that came, a young one and an old one," he said. "They asked to see the statue, and my son took them out. The old one said to my son, 'someday this will be a shrine.' "

Mr. Brodeur doesn't seem to care if the statue becomes famous or not.

"I don't want some big, elaborate thing, I want something simple," he said. "It means an awful lot to me just to be able to go and say my morning prayer there."

Mrs. Brodeur said, "It's kind of an intimate place to be. I've often thought of things I'd like to do down there myself."

Though Mr. Brodeur is 67 years old, a former dairy farmer and retired worker after 19 years at the former Warren Pump shop, he still works hard each day to maintain his farm.

He says he doesn't always have enough time to do as much as he wants to around the statue.

"That bothers me because I like to see the place clean and there's always a lot to do," he said.

Mrs. Brodeur, with one sentence, illustrated the difference between the rushing world of the pike and the calmer life at Sunnybrook Farm.

"Well," she said, "if we don't get it done today, there's always another day."

3 Jul 1987 - She's an Inpiration to Travelers

She's an inspiration
to travelers

In her 23 years, Alfred Brodeur's "Madonna" in West Warren has become a landmark along the Massachusetts Turnpike

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Turnpike Landmark -- With traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike flowing past, background, Alfred Brodeur recites the rosary in front of the "Madonna of the Turnpike" in West Warren, which he erected 23 years ago.

Since then, the statue is annually visited by many hundreds of travelers.

By Tom Shea

With no apparent sign of trouble, the pea-green Plymouth with the emergency lights flashing eased its way into the eastbound breakdown lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike in West Warren last week.

A mother and son emerged gripping rosaries. While cars whizzed by, they stood at the guard rail facing a white statue of the Virgin Mary more than 100 feet away in a manicured grove. They bowed their head and recited a decade of the rosary in Spanish.

"My mother is not well and we are going to Boston to visit a doctor," said 48-year-old Victor Hernandez of Springfield. "It makes her feel better to stop here and say her prayers."

Ina Hernandez, a woman in her 70's, who speaks little English, said she has great devotion to "Mary, the mother of God."

"She always hears my prayers," she said.

Alfred Brodeur placed the two-foot-high cement statue of Mary on a ruggedly handsome three-foot-high boulder pedestal in a clearing overlooking the turnpike in the spring of 1964.

He did it for God.

In 1963, Eldora Brodeur, his wife, was sick with her first bout with cancer.

"She had a very serious operation and I promised God and the Blessed Mother if she got well I would build the statue," Brodeur said. "She did. And I kept my promise."

By keeping his promise and by erecting the statue on his property visible to both sides of the turnpike, Brodeur's handiwork has become a landmark: The Madonna of the Turnpike, a source of inspiration and curiosity to many who travel the pike between the Palmer and Sturbridge exits.

* * *

"Originally I thought I'd put the statue by the babbling brook behind the house, but I wanted to put it somewhere special for the Blessed Mother where it would inspire people," Brodeur said.

"I thought if people saw the statue they would think of her and say a little prayer."

A Roman Catholic with a special devotion to Mary, Brodeur is a robust and friendly 77-year-old Warren native, who facially resembles Henry Kissinger.

He spent much of his childhood in Canada and worked most of his life as a dairy farmer on his 100-plus acre Sunnybrook Farm, and as an employee of the Warren Pumps before his retirement 15 years ago.

Brodeur purchased the plain statue of Mary at a now-forgotten store in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield.

"I didn't want something big and elaborate," he said. "I wanted something simple and pure to honor her."

Through the years, hundreds have stopped at the statue, leaving letters, rosaries, money and flowers. For years an anonymous elderly Polish-born man from Springfield would show up each year to paint the statue.

The letters are sometimes neatly written, others scribbled hurriedly on napkins or scraps of paper, usually thanking Mary for favors granted or asking for help.

* * *

The occasional dollar bills stuffed into the rocks of the pedestal are used to help pay the electricity bill to keep the 100-watt spotlight shining on the statue after dark.

Some have followed the path through thick forest behind the statue and walked the quarter of a mile to the Brodeur homestead to either thank the family, or to hear the story of the Madonna.

"Recently, a truck driver, huffing and puffing, knocked on the door and asked if we were responsible for the statue," said Diane Fontaine, Brodeur's daughter, who now lives at the farm with her family.

"When I said we were, he said he has been meaning for years to stop by and thank us. He told me the statue of the Blessed Mother means a lot to him. He then turned around and ran back to his truck."

When the spotlight didn't shine on the statue between February and June, State Rep. Paul E. Caron, D-Springfield, started a personal investigation.

"I was concerned because the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a beacon to many of us who travel the pike and I've long viewed the shrine as a symbol of peace and contentment," Caron said. "I was relieved to hear it was loggers on the property who accidentally cut an electric cable leading to the statue and the family planned on re-lighting the statue when the logging job was completed."

The light was turned back on the Madonna on June 5th, the day before John Paul II opened the Marian year with a world-wide saying of the rosary on international television.

"It wasn't planned that way by Bud (Brodeur's son-in-law, Elmer Fontaine)," Brodeur said. "And I believe it's more than a coincidence. Our Lady had it planned that way."

* * *

The most persistent myth concerning the Madonna is that the statue commemorates the site of a fatal accident.

"I don't know where that got started, but I've heard that one a lot," Alfred Brodeur said. "The statue of the Blessed Mother represents a life being saved, not a life being lost."

Eldora Brodeur recovered fully from her first bout from cancer, but the cancer returned in 1979 and she died at the age of 69 in 1981.

"She never complained or cried the last two years of her life...and she really suffered," Diane Fontaine said. She always said, "Don't cry for me, I've gotten everything I wanted out of life."

"She really believed she was given 15 extra good years from Jesus through his Mother. And, when she died she was ready and died peacefully with her family around her. Just before she died we saw her lips move. She said "I love you." "

In recounting the story of his wife's suffering and death, Alfred Brodeur cried.

We were married 51 years, four months and 16 days," he said. "God was good to us. He gave us those last 17 years together."

Brodeur remarried four years ago, sold the farm to his son and moved to North Brookfield with his wife, Rose Gomez.

He still drives a car and volunteers delivering hot meals to the elderly shut-ins. He also still says his daily rosary on his knees.

* * *

On his frequent return visits to the farm, Brodeur always includes a trip to pray in front of the statue.

"I used to say my morning prayers out there everyday," he said. "So now I make it a point to visit when I come to the farm. The Blessed Mother is in good hands with Bud, he keeps the place looking pretty."

The Fontaine's usually take a stroll down to the statue each evening.

"It's very peaceful down there," Diane Fontaine said. "You wouldn't think so with all the cars going by on the pike, but it is."

The statue has a shrine-like appearance with honeysuckle, rhododendrons and roses filling in the spaces behind the statue.

"Many yeas ago two priests came to the door and asked to see the statue," Brodeur said. "My son took them out and the older of the two priests said to my son, "someday this will be a shrine." "

* * *

Victor Hernandez said his mother noticed the statue almost five years ago when her trips to doctors in Boston began.

"She felt it was a godsend," he said. "She almost couldn't believe it The first time she saw it I had to use my brakes and go in reverse in the breakdown lane to find the statue. I thought she was seeing things."

Hernandez said he now knows the spot by heart.

"Like I said, it make her feel better to stop here," he said. "She would like to pray the whole rosary kneeling in front of the statue but she couldn't get over the guard rail and the fence (which divides the Brodeur's property and the pike's), so she stands here and prays."

On the trip home, Hernandez said his mother says a silent prayer when they drive past in the westbound lane of the pike.

"It's even more beautiful, lit in the dark," he said. "I think it's wonderful someone thought so much of the Blessed Mother to build something like this. They must love her as much as my mother does."

19 Oct 1987 - Keeping a Promise to God

Joe Ruggiero first noticed the statue about 10 years ago while cruising down the Mass. Pike on his way to visit relatives in his native Lawrence.

Somewhere between the Palmer and Sturbridge exits, he did something of a doubletake.

"You don't expect to find something like that off to the side of a turnpike," Joe Ruggiero says. "So simple and so beautiful."

He offered a quick Hail Mary as he passed, and he promised himself, like the good East Hartford cop he once was, to find out the story behind the statue.

Joe Ruggiero called the state police in Sturbridge and talked to a man who knew the whole story of the Madonna of the Turnpike, who told him how in 1964, Alfred Brodeur of West Warren placed a plain two-foot cement statue of Mary on a three-foot-high pedestal of field stones in a clearing overlooking the turnpike. And how it was an act of thanksgiving.

The previous year, Alfred Brodeur's wife, Eldora, had been stricken by cancer. Her husband promised God and the Blessed Mother if his wife got better he would erect a statue. When Eldora Brodeur did - she would live 17 more years - Alfred Brodeur made good on his promise. Originally he wanted to put the statue by the babbling brook behind his 100-acre dairy farm, but decided to put it somewhere special. So Alfred Brodeur placed the statue on his prooperty visible to both lanes of the turnpike. It is now a landmark, a source of inspiration and curiosity to many who pass.

Joe Ruggiero loved the story. Admired how Alfred Brodeur's son, Al, and son-in-law Bud Fontaine, kept the property surrounding the statue so pristine, so shrine-like, especially at night with the 100-watt spotlight illuminating the simple statue.

Like so many others during the past 33 years, the man who will be 85 in January has dared to do the dangerous, pulling into the emergency lane and climbing over the guardrail to pray before the statue. He has also planted roses and come across rosaries, the notes, the money left by people, requesting help or thanking Mary for favors received.

A couple of months ago, Joe Ruggiero's fiance was told she had probably a fatal health condition. She entered Springfield's Baystate Medical Center. Doctors offered no false hope.

When he left the hospital that night, he didn't go home. He drove to the Madonna on the Turnpike. Joe Ruggiero didn't so much pray as beg Mary for a favor. It's not his style to pray for something for himself. He usually concentrates on the intentions of others. He stayed there maybe an hour. Before leaving, he made a promise. If Mary granted him this favor, he would make her turnpike spot even more striking.

The next morning, the doctors at Baystate gave Joe Ruggiero's fiance a clean bill of health. The two took the news as a prayer answered.

"Mary did her part," Joe Ruggiero says. "Now it was my turn."

He approached Al Brodeur and Bud Fontaine with ideas, and an offer of $500 to enhance the site.

The first result is a white vinyl arbor that now shields the statue from the elements. Oak planks for improving the rickety bridge on the Brodeur property that allows easier access to the statue from West Warren is on the agenda. Joe Ruggiero is even trying to talk the family into building a staircase up the hill from the turnpike to the Madonna.

Alfred Brodeur, now 87 and hobbled by a variety of health problems, recently was brought to the renovated site and was moved by its new beauty. He was once told by two priests that this spot born of thanksgiving would some day be a shrine.

Joe Ruggiero didn't know that part of the story.

Like Alfred Brodeur, he was just another grateful man, keeping a promise to God.

1 Jul 1990 - A Mass Pike Primer

22 Nov 2000 - Who Takes Care of thia Madonna Statue?

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Watch the Road

For holiday getaway, Pike offers little-noticed gems

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff

James Taylor had it wrong in the fourth verse of "Sweet Baby James." With 10 miles behind him on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Taylor had ony 125 miles left before hitting Boston. It just seemed like "10,000 more to go," as Taylor figured in the song. Today is the busiest day of the year for this 43-year-old ribbon of Interstate 90 that links Massachusetts from the bay to the Berkshires, with 600,000 toll-paying vehicles expected. "It's constantly busy, It's wild. It's hectic," toll-taker Angel Vicente, manning the Allston booths, said of the annual Thanksgiving eve rush.

But given the inevitability of slowdowns and breakdowns today, the turnpike should be given a fresh look by families who might spend far more time on the highway than they wish. Here, then, is a people's sampling of the natural and man-made curiosities - from an overlooked bridge in the Fenway to a small religious statue in Warren. . . .

Doubling back, heading east across the Connecticut River toward Boston, a small, white statue of the Madonna stands at the head of a private manicured lot in Warren.

The 2-foot-high statue, siitting on a makeshift stone base, was erected by Alfred Brodeur around 1964 to give thanks for his wife's recovery from cancer, said Brodeur's daughter Diane Fontaine.

"They had wanted to put the statue on their lawn, but they decided it wouldn't inspire too much prayer, seeing as how their house is on a dead-end street," said Fontaine, who still lives on her parents' former dairy farm, which was divided by the turnpike.

"The pike cut the farm property in half, and my father put the statue there to inspire prayer to the Blessed Mother and especially the rosary." "He was not a handyman at all; he was a farmer," Fontaine added. "It's almost a miracle that it still stands, because the stones have stayed just the way he put them."

Fontaine's husband, Elmer, tends the plot regularly. One day last week, he paced through the woods to the site to wash the statue. The next day, he returned to collect some of the many rosaries and beads that travelers leave beside the statue.

"Some of them have been there for yea'rs, Diane Fontaine said. The same, it seems, can be said of many of the Pike's curiosities.

Representative Notes
and Letters

23 Jul 1980 - Thank You for Putting This Statue There

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16 Aug 1981 - Be Assured of My Prayers for You

12 Sep 1983 - Our Blessed Mother Among the Trees

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1 Jun 1987 - Hoping the Lights Will be Shining Brightly

1 Jul 1987 - The Lights are On

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23 Jul 2000 - It was a Dream Come True

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23 Jul 2000

- With Joyous Hearts We Visited Your Statue

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- Wanted to See Her Once More

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- Please Say a Special Prayer for Me

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- This Will Be My Last Time Here

- I Say a Quick Prayer as I Pass by

- Keep up the Great Work

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- If There's Any Way of Helping

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