Patrick "PJ" Taylor stands next to the stone donated to Smithfield

Patrick “PJ” Taylor worked with Irene Esposito to get a large stone donated to Smithfield and delivered to Georgiaville Beach to memorialize the lives lost due to drownings at the pond.

SMITHFIELD – Two Smithfield residents have teamed up to bring a 15,200-pound granite stone to Georgiaville Beach to honor and memorialize the lives lost due to drowning at the pond.

Last year, Patrick “PJ” Taylor of the Cat House Guys hosted a Memorial Day event and beach cleanup at Georgiaville Beach, dedicated to the many people who have died at the pond. He said around 150 people attended, including Irene Folco Esposito.

The pair, both lifelong Smithfield residents, discussed growing up on the pond and the unfortunate history of people drowning over their lifetime. While exact numbers can’t be determined, Taylor estimates that at least 20 people have drowned in the pond in his lifetime.

“It’s very dangerous waters,” Taylor said.

Despite several signs warning of the danger of swimming outside of the swimming area or without a lifeguard, people take the chance and swim over to the island. The pair hope that seeing the memorial stone and reading its plaque may stop a person from attempting the swim.

“It’s about the people we lost and trying to prevent another person from drowning,” Taylor said.

The stone was donated by Sand and Stone of North Smithfield.

“This isn’t about us, this is about giving back to the community, and maybe saving lives,” Taylor said.

The pair got prices on a plaque to add to the stone, which will include a dedication to those who have drowned at the pond but will not list all the victims’ names. Taylor said he attempted to get everyone’s names, but the full list is too hard to find.

Taylor recalled a time as a 5th-grader when classmates skipped class to go swimming. One of his friends attempted to swim to the small island a little more than 200 yards off the shore and never made it. He said he vividly remembers people screaming for help and calling for an ambulance.

The first recorded drowning at Georgiaville Pond occurred in 1858 when a man fell through the ice. Since then, drownings occur every few years, said Taylor. Growing up on Georgiaville Pond on the opposite side of the beach, Taylor said he remembered two young children drowning by the dam, but the majority of drownings have happened to people swimming to the island.

When he was younger, he said only Smithfield residents went to the pond. Today, more out-of-towners come, which adds to both the difficultly in finding the names of all drowning victims.

“They would come for a good time, and some never left,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Esposito say they hope for donations to fund the plaque and 32-foot flagpole at the pond, pricing out both items at a combined $5,000. Donations to the Georgiaville Beach Memorial can be made at Pawtucket Credit Union.

The Smithfield Town Council is supporting the effort, said Taylor, and has been helpful in setting up the fundraiser. Recreation Director Robert Caine helped with the delivery of the 6-foot rock.

In his day, Taylor said the island drew crowds as a hangout location with log cabins. He said he would swim from the beach to the island and knows of several cold springs along the route that may cause a shock in swimmers and cause drowning.

The 2022 Georgiaville Pond Memorial Day event will be held on May 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. including a dedication ceremony for the monument. The memorial will continue at the Portuguese American Club, 32 Fenwood Ave., from 2:15 to 6 p.m. with food, music and more.

For more information, call Taylor at 401-231-9771.

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