Six years ago, Pat Matthews purchased nine bronze statues while on vacation with her husband in Atlantic City.
“We tried to keep a genre that would represent nature and our community,” said Matthews, 64, a Shirley resident of more than 35 years. “So we chose mainly statues of children playing and learning, although there is a statue of an elderly couple sitting on a bench in front of the senior nutrition center in Mastic Beach.”
Matthews is a member of the William Floyd Community Summit, a group of volunteers who work toward improving the quality of life in the area. The organization was formed 11 years ago by Richard Hawkins, the then-superintendent of the William Floyd School District.
The group’s beautification committee received $80,000 in state, county and town grants, part of which helped purchase the statues, Matthews said. The organization placed statues in front of local businesses such as the Hess gas station, the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library and the Mastic-Shirley Long Island Rail Road station.
The only statue not purchased with the grant money was a 7-foot-high statue of William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had an estate in Mastic Beach. The statue was created by Santo Matarazzo, an Italian-born artist who owned a summer home there. Matarazzo, who died in 2008 at age 79, started creating the statue in 2001 and donated it to the organization once he finished the plaster cast in 2005.
“He wanted no money; he donated it out of the kindness of his heart,” said his wife, Lucia Matarazzo.
Diana and Jim Davies, of Shirley, became close friends with the Matarazzos.
“He made the statue as a gift for the community without any strings,” said Diana Davies, 74. “He was a lovely man who was very intelligent and artistic. He made it because William Floyd is a part of our history and because he wanted to do something special for a community he enjoyed being a part of. No one asked him to do it.”
For now, the Floyd statue sits on a pedestal in front of the library. But Matthews said it will be moved next year to a flower garden planned for the southeast corner of William Floyd Parkway and Montauk Highway. Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning secured $300,000 in county funds for the project.
Diana Davies said the spot will include signs like “Welcome to Our Historic Community” and “Home of William Floyd.”
Some have complained in online forums they think the statues are an eyesore.
Said Matthews: “I respect their opinion, but many people love them and take notice of them.”