YOUR VIEW: Remembering Craig Yarde, the man

Published on Tuesday, 8 March 2022 21:02
Written by

Remembering Craig Yarde

To the Editor:

Craig Yarde – Husband, Father, Grandfather, Industrialist, Visionary, Inventor, Businessman, Comedian, Prankster and Benefactor

The focus of what follows is my observation of Craig as a benefactor, albeit abbreviated. At some point, perhaps when the next edition of history of Bristol is written, a comprehensive portrait of the entire Yarde clan will be included. But not by me. My goal here is to document some of the contributions Craig made to the Bristol community.

In my opinion, perhaps his most important contribution was the formation of the company Yarde Metals. After a short period, the company, which was operating from his garage, became an important resource in the metal industry. As the company grew, so did the number of employees, the majority from Bristol. During the 25 years that Craig and his brother Bruce, who joined the company in its infancy, provided employment opportunities for hundreds upon hundreds for local residents. It could have been more but with the Yarde business model, the employee turnover rate was extremely low. Because of size constraints, the company headquarters reloaded to Southington, which allowed for continued employment growth. 

The time had changed and the location had changed. What did not change was the support that Craig and Yarde Metals continued to provide to local organizations. Perhaps the most visible support occurred during the fall at Bristol’s Mum Festival when the majority of parade floats were displayed on long, black flatbed trucks, courtesy of Yarde Metals. The idea of supporting local organizations had become part of the fabric of the company and even though company ownership changed, it continued to support local organizations. So too did Craig Yarde and his family, albeit usually without recognition. I am not certain that anyone has a complete list of all the areas of support. Certainly I do not, but I do have some firsthand knowledge of some.

The brownstone framed digital signs at Bristol Central, Eastern and Saint Paul along with those on Route 6, at the Farmington town line and Plymouth town line were all funded by Craig Yarde. In addition, the expense of current news displayed was also at his expense until two years ago when it was taken over by the city. To Craig, these signs served as a vehicle for local nonprofit organizations to market their programs and for the city to keep the public informed of local events. Memorial Boulevard itself was also a recipient of his support by the planting of several trees and the building of a wall at the parking area of South Street. The list continues: batting cages at Little League fields; landscape enhancements at various sites; funding for the concession/service facility at the soccer complex on Emmett Street by Craig and Bruce to honor their mother and father.

And there are more too numerous to mention with the exception of two. Craig worked on one for over 10 years and hopefully soon they will adorn some area in Page Park. Approximately he gathered some large trees that were being cut in Page Park. “This wood will make great benches” he must have said to himself. He researched the proper method for cutting and drying the wood. Several wooden slabs were the result, each approximately three ft. by five ft. long and 3 to 4 inches thick. They were placed in a homemade clamping device on his property where they remained for several years. Each year, as they dried, the clamps were tightened to eliminate cracking. Finally, this past year he termed them ready and he commissioned Melnick Works to fabricate special legs and bases for each. Why? To make benches for Page Park with wood from Page Park, no charge.

And one more thing, Craig often spoke of an idea to build something in downtown Bristol which would become a destination for Bristol citizens as well as for visitors. He had several conversations with city officials and friends regarding the need to create a gathering place of sorts that would bring the community together. Also, over the years he developed an affinity for brownstone, which has become a scarce commodity as most of the quarries are no longer operational. So whenever he became aware of some, he would find a way to get it. A little, and only a little, had been used for the digital signs. In the spring of 2021, he decided to donate the balance to the city to be used, hopefully, for a project downtown. I refer to this as the Brownstone Project, as the task of moving the material from his property to a city site required the collaboration and cooperation of several entities. The result is the city is in possession of approximately 18-plus tons of brownstone blocks. I am pleased to report that the first use of this will be for the two magnet school signs, one on South Street and one on Memorial Boulevard.

In the beginning, I used several single words in an attempt to describe my impression of Craig Yarde. There was one that was omitted which I now include. Craig was also something of a maverick.

“Two roads in the woods diverge in the wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Craig did not follow. He led. In many ways, he took the road less traveled. He loved Bristol and he continually offered for consideration ways to improve it. And improve he did. Bristol is our city. Perhaps we should strive to do the same.

John Smith

Bristol



Posted in The Bristol Press, Letters on Tuesday, 8 March 2022 21:02. Updated: Tuesday, 8 March 2022 21:04.