SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 24, 2013

Toy soldier stolen from traffic island

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — They were placed there to create a little holiday cheer.

Five toy soldier decorations made by the Ipswich Garden Club stood on a traffic island near Market Street. But the littlest soldier of the group has gone missing — stolen right before Christmas.

While it’s been more than a week since the theft, members are still pleading for the decoration to be returned.

“It is just so sad that someone would be doing something like this,” said Joyce Kippen, a member of the club.

It took the group about a month and a half to make the toy soldiers about a year ago. Last year, soldiers got relocated around the square — twice — but never went missing. The group was hoping the same was true this year, Kippen said.

Kippen said each soldier was secured with a steel bar in the ground so it wouldn’t get knocked down. The rebar is still there next to another soldier.

“They lifted him right off the rebar,” she said. “He was our littlest soldier. We keep saying he was too young to go AWOL.”

The theft has been reported to police, but there have been no leads. Police Lt. Jonathan Hubbard could not be reached for comment.

The homemade soldiers were dusted off from storage and retouched before being placed on the island on Dec. 4. Intricately made from clay flowerpots and including fur hats, braided ropes, golden buttons and leather belts, they are between 3 and 4 feet tall. The island also includes two snowmen and six Fraser fir trees decorated with ornaments.

“I guess it is to make people happy and dress the Market Street island,” Kippen said. “A lot of people drive by.”

Kippen said the garden club raises money each year to beautify the town. This is one of the major projects every year.

People have come to appreciate the decorations, with members even receiving notes about them.

“I saw a woman pointing the soldiers out to her kids,” Kippen said.

Kippen is pleading for the soldier to be returned, no questions asked.

“We still have hope it will return,” she said. “There might be a miracle, and he’ll return.”

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.