Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson will preside over a brief rededication of the ‘Challenger Seven’ Memorial on Thursday November 18th at 4 p.m. at Montpelier High School along the bike path. The Challenger Memorial, created by Daniel Roselli, was recently moved from an inaccessible location near National Life where it stood for 35 years. The Memorial is in memory of the seven astronauts who died on January 28, 1986, when NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its launch. The seven astronauts included the first civilian astronaut, Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher from New Hampshire.
The disaster was made even worse by the live TV viewing of thousands of students and teachers from all over the country inspired by McAuliffe, including our local science classes. Mayor Watson is a science teacher and the memory of this tragedy is close to her heart.
The Montpelier Public Art Commission spent the past year on this project. From the beginning, the commission intended that no taxpayer funds be involved in this project, particularly when so many are financially stressed by COVID-19. To our tremendous appreciation, the National Life Group covered all the costs.
Two mysteries surrounding this monument were recently solved! The Montpelier Public Art Commission had wondered, why did Daniel Roselli design and donate the monument? Dan had no kids, he was not involved with the school, and he had been working on learning his parents’ granite business, which he would take over. Unfortunately, Daniel Roselli died of cancer in 2004. However, one of his closest friends, Doug Zorzi, emailed the Public Art Commission to explain that Dan was truly a rare kind of person who was not only deeply moved by the disaster, but doubly moved by the added tragedy that so many young people witnessed it first-hand. Dan created the memorial to remember all of those it impacted.
As for the second mystery? Apples! They appear every year placed all over the monument. A local resident informed the Commission that people still honor the memory of the astronauts by bringing apples for the teacher. So now, the monument sits in front of an apple tree.
Here is a brief history of the ‘Challenger Seven’ Memorial:
• Daniel Roselli designed the monument. “Danny deserves all the credit on this. He … got everything done,” remarked his father.
• Daniel Roselli’s parents, Evelyn and Vic, fabricated and funded the memorial. They owned Desilets Granite Company, a well-known memorial manufacturer, the location of which is now condos on Barre Street, Montpelier.
• Vic hired Ed Epstein, who still resides locally, to etch the image of the Challenger shuttle on the memorial, which includes two slabs of granite, one light ‘Barre Gray’ from a local quarry and the other ‘India Dark,’ which was imported.
• The City raised money to design and plant a small park surrounding the memorial, which is now long gone.
• The National Life Group donated the land where it sat for 35 years and took excellent care of it.
• A well-attended dedication was held exactly 35 years ago in the fall of 1986, which included local school children and teachers.