History professor Richard Padova is passionate about the past. And the Andover man has had to look no further than his own father, Salvatore “Sam” Pauta, to enjoy a living bridge to America’s history.
Pauta, a World War II veteran who has lived in Lawrence his whole life, sparked Padova’s interest in finding out about the city’s role in the battle.
So to commemorate the centennial anniversary of World War I and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Padova, who teaches at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, decided he wanted to put together something special. He drew from his collection of personal memorabilia, his father’s possessions and the archives at the Lawrence History Center to create a portrait of the two wars in his home city.
His exhibit opened last week in the third-floor gallery of the Heritage State Park visitor center in Lawrence and will remain on display through the summer.
“I really wanted to look at the local connection, but also capture the global perspective,” said Padova, who coordinates Lawrence’s annual July 4 celebration.
The exhibit consists of glass display cases organized around various themes. Models of planes and boats demonstrate the logistics of combat, while more personal items such as postcards and photographs highlight the loyalty and support that Lawrence citizens showed soldiers from their city.
One case details the life of Maj. General Edward Sirous, who served in both world wars. Sirous, who rose through the ranks of the Army, chronicled his experience in a book titled “Smashing Through the World War.”
“Edward Sirous was a real proud son of Lawrence, which is part of why I chose to focus on him,” Padova said.
Many of the exhibit items have an even greater personal significance to Padova. A mannequin displays a well-preserved World War II Navy uniform that belongs to Padova’s father. A banner from the now-defunct Lawrence chapter of the Italian American World War Veterans hangs on one wall, near a ledger of notes from the group’s meetings. Padova’s father’s name can be seen in one of the notebooks.
“Sadly, my dad is one of the last surviving members of that organization, which was important to those who served in its time,” Padova said.
The exhibit was funded by the Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lawrence History Center and Lawrence Public Library, as well as a grant from the Service Center of Greater Lawrence, Inc.