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Pa. man honored for saving Chambersburg fountain

October 02, 2000|By DON AINES

Pa. man honored for saving Chambersburg fountain



CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Each day a few thousand cars and trucks drive around the Memorial Square fountain at the intersection of Lincoln Way and Main Street, just as horses, carriages and trolleys of earlier generations did since it became a Chambersburg landmark on July 17, 1878.

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The multi-tiered fountain and the statue of a Civil War Union soldier that stands guard facing south might have been removed years ago, but for the efforts of people such as Raymond Depuy.

For his work in preserving the fountain and for other development and preservation projects in the borough, the former CIA intelligence officer was honored last week with the first annual Mike Waters Citizen of the Year Award.

"I'm still getting used to the idea," Depuy, 72, said Friday at The Art Center, the small North Main Street art supply and framing shop he and his wife Joan opened in 1985.

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The award is named for Waters, a community activist who died last year and whose service to the borough was honored in September when the South Street Playground was renamed in his memory.

"There were six solid nominations we received," said Assistant Borough Manager David Finch, a member of the selection committee that included Waters' widow and son. "The deciding factor for Ray was his level of service ... which was similar to Mike's," he said.

The groups with which Depuy has worked include the ChambersFest Committee of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce; the board of directors of Downtown Chambersburg Inc.; the Chambersburg Transit Authority; the board of directors for Chambersburg Community Centers Inc.; the Kiwanis Evening Club of Chambersburg; the Kittochtinny Historical Society and Franklin County Heritage Inc., of which he was president from 1978 to 1996.

"I think downtown revitalization and development can go hand-in-hand with historic preservation," Depuy said Friday. Projects including the fountain and the recently revamped Village on the Falling Spring exemplify those sometimes competing interests.

"It would have been a sacrifice to traffic flow" had the fountain been removed from the intersection of the town's major thoroughfares, Depuy said. "Folks were well intentioned, but we thought the fountain's location was part and parcel of its importance."

"Some thought it would be better protected and more accessible if relocated," Depuy said.

Despite barriers, it has been damaged by traffic accidents at least twice since an $80,000 restoration in 1994, but moving it out of the square would have made it more accessible to vandals, he said.

The Village on the Falling Spring was originally proposed as a $10 million investment of private and public funds with two commercial buildings and a park at the confluence of the Falling Spring and Conococheague Creek. A lawsuit and opposition from local historians and veterans groups has resulted in a drastic downsizing.

"When we planned the Village on the Falling Spring, the top of our list of priorities was the environment and historical preservation," Depuy said. Some historians objected because part of the project might encroach on the site of a fort built by the borough's founder, Benjamin Chambers.

"The historians, not myself, didn't want to lose any of it, but I don't fault them for that," Depuy said. At the same time, he said "responsible tenancy" at the site would help preservation by deterring vandals.

As a member of Downtown Chambersburg Inc.'s Master Planning Committee, he and other members are providing input on downtown projects, including the Capitol Theatre and Marble Building, a former bank on the square that may become the Chambersburg Historic Center.

Depuy said the borough needs one place where visitors can learn about the region's history, including its frontier settlement, the 1859 meeting between abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown, and the 1864 burning of the town by Confederate troops.

Depuy's work with the Central Presbyterian Church is also helping preserve and revitalize the downtown. He said the church has bought the Unitas Bank building next door and another building. That will keep both buildings intact, while allowing the church to control parking behind them for its expansion project.

It was 15 years ago, when he was president of the Kiwanis Evening Club, that the club raised $65,000 to build the bandshell at Memorial Park. Depuy has been involved in many fund-raising projects and has found "The sentiment for the project raises the money for you."

Born in Lancaster, Pa., Depuy was raised in Chambersburg. Depuy's father died when he was 5 and his mother Edith was remarried to the late Franklin County President Judge Chauncey Depuy.

"Chauncey was my Scoutmaster, and I asked him one time if he would come home for supper," Depuy said.

Anyone who frequents the downtown would likely recognize Depuy riding a bicycle despite having one leg. He lost the other to bone cancer at the age of 14 after years of radiation therapy.

"It destroyed my leg, but it killed the cancer," he said. "Through my mom, I made up for my lack of mobility by learning to play the piano and violin," he said.

"She would never hear of me giving up on anything," he said.

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