Hachiko Statue Unveiled at Woonsocket Rotary Vocational Service Award Dinner

On Thursday, March 24, the Rotary Club of Woonsocket honored Robert "Rob" Pilkington, Ed. D., president and superintendent of Woonsocket's Beacon Charter School, as the recipient of the Vocational Service Award.  The evening included several special touches from the Beacon School members including performers as human statues, floral table prepared by the visual arts students and a special dessert prepared by the culinary arts students.

The evening included presentations from several local dignitaries including proclamations from Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine, Rhode Island State Representative Robert Phillips and U.S. Representative David Cicilline. The evening was capped off with Woonsocket Rotary President Gerard Noel presented Dr. Pilkington with the 2011 Woonsocket Rotary Vocational Service Award.

There was one additional surprise at this year's Woonsocket Rotary Vocational Service Award dinner. As Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine was present for the dinner, Dr. Pilkington took this opportunity to present the City of Woonsocket with a special gift, a replica statue of Hachiko.

Many may remember the excitement around the filming of the 2009 "Hachiko," movie in Woonsocket.  Hachiko, staring Richard Gere, was based on the true story of an Akita in Japan that used to greet his owner as he stepped off the train from work every day at the same time and continued to do so for a decade after the man died suddenly at work. Hachiko lived as a stray and kept up his sadly futile routine until the day he, too, died. The Japanese were so impressed by Hachiko's enduring loyalty that they erected a statue to him outside Shibuya station in 1934.

The Hachiko statue, donated by the Beacon Charter School, is a replica of the famous statue located outside Shibuya station in Japan. The statue is a brownish figure weighing 90 pounds and stands about three feet high. Cast in the sitting position, with an expression of vague longing in his eyes, the statue was created by an artist from New Jersey who visited Japan and was so impressed by the original that he came home to make one of his own. Dr. Pilkington found the statue for sale on eBay and with the approval of Beacon's board of trustees, he expended $1,950 from the school's operating budget.

Pilkington says it was Mayor Leo Fontaine who came up with the idea of erecting a replica statue of Hachiko, a project that would serve as part tourist attraction, part tribute to the creation of the film at the Depot Building, a former Providence & Worcester stop that was transformed into the "Bedford Falls" train station for the movie. The city envisions the Hachiko statue as a permanent tribute to the city's role in the movie and hopes it may attracts a visitors to the city as the original has in Japan.