A bronze sword that was stolen from a Westfield, Mass., statue of Revolutionary War Gen. William Shepard in 1980 has been returned to the Westfield Historical Commission by the remorseful thief. The sword was replaced a few years after the theft, but the original will have a new home at a local museum. Photo by Daderot/Wikimedia Commons
Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A remorseful thief who took the sword from a statue of a Revolutionary War hero in Massachusetts returned the sculpture's blade to the city Historical Commission with his apologies.
Cindy P. Gaylord, chair of the Westfield Historical Commission, said a man contacted Westfield City Hall in December and asked to be connected with someone involved with the commission.
"His message was very cryptic," Gaylord told The Springfield Republican. "He said he was in possession of something that belonged to Westfield and he wanted to return it."
Gaylord arranged to meet in person with the man, who then recounted to her the story of how he was a student at Westfield State University in 1980 and ended up taking the bronze sword from the sculpture of Gen. William Shepard, a Revolutionary War hero, in the city's downtown.
The man told Gaylord the theft was a drunken mistake.
"He said he pulled it with such force that he fell backwards off the pedestal with the sword in his hand. The sword pierced his shirt near his stomach and stabbed into the ground. His buddies had to pull him up," Gaylord said.
The man said he and his sister recently rediscovered the sword while going through family belongings and he decided to attempt to return it to the city.
"He had a great deal of shame and remorse," Gaylord said. "He is a veteran and told me the fact that he did this to another soldier troubled him. He wants the story printed to remind people that something you do in your youth could haunt you for the rest of your life."
The statue's sword was replaced decades ago, but the original will likely have a new home at a local museum, Gaylord said.
The sword's return was applauded by the Cape Cod Daughters of the American Revolution.
"Sad that it went missing but how wonderful that it was finally returned," the group said in a Facebook post.