Byline: Kim Ring
NEW BRAINTREE - The two state troopers shook hands at the Old Timers bar in Clinton that last time 57 years ago.
Raymond T. Alzapiedi promised he'd be back by Christmas and Alje M. Savela said, "I'll be a father by then."
Ten days later, on Aug. 31, 1951, Trooper Savela was dead.
"He never saw that baby," Mr. Alzapiedi said.
Mr. Alzapiedi, who would later earn the rank of captain with the Massachusetts State Police, was in Georgia, called up for the Korean War, when another man from Boston asked him if he knew the trooper who had been killed.
He said he didn't think so - until his friend showed him The Boston Globe and he read about a trooper who was gunned down with a 9 mm automatic pistol while he sat in his cruiser at Route 122 and Old Hardwick Road in Barre.
"It was Alje," he said, recalling the moment last week as he gestured toward a painting of his state police academy classmate.
On Wednesday, Mr. Alzapiedi met with Trooper Michael Wilmot, an assistant armorer at the State Police Academy range that is named for Trooper Savela, to see a painting depicting his old friend and four others killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
The 13-by-10-foot painting has been lost and found several times and plucked from a trash can on more than one occasion. Not too long ago, a forlorn-looking Lt. Michael Domnarski was at the academy, with the painting rolled out on the gymnasium floor, when Trooper Wilmot happened by and asked what was wrong.
"I said, `Mike, I had this painting done eight years ago and I'm sad that I could never get it framed and hung up properly,'" Lt. Domnarski said.
Trooper Wilmot took up the task, spending his off-duty hours finding someone to restore and frame the painting. The State Police Association of Massachusetts, the troopers' union, ponied up the money for the project.
John and Maureen Connolly of the Aisling Gallery brought in artist Vincent Crotty to help make the repairs. They built the frame, the largest they'd ever made. And because they'd been acquainted with the family of slain Trooper Mark S. Charbonnier, they charged only what the work cost them: $2,500. Once completed, the painting was hung up at the range.
Lt. Domnarski was pleased to see the painting displayed. He said he'd commissioned it using grant funds when he oversaw operations at the range because he wanted young troopers to have a reminder of the importance of firearms training.
"Every one of these guys died from gunfire," he said.