By Donald Wittkowski
In Sea Isle City, it is generally known as “the chair,” although some have affectionately given it an almost human quality by naming it “Chair,” with a capital “C.”
It has its own “chairtaker,” who has lovingly decorated it for a year with holiday finery. It has attained celebrity status in local circles through a legion of loyal Facebook followers.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio even granted the chair an executive “pardon” in June when rumors swirled that it would be unceremoniously removed by city work crews from its prominent perch along the city’s Promenade at 49th Street.
But now, the rusty old beach chair that became an offbeat community attraction over the past year has been destroyed, a victim of vandalism that has left it in tatters.
“What upsets me the most is that somebody attacked it with a vengeance. There’s a lot of anger out there, because someone actually used violence to attack it,” said Eva Feeley, the self-appointed chairtaker.
In what was crushing news, Feeley learned Sunday morning that the chair had been vandalized overnight. She is unsure who is responsible, although she noted speculation is building in the community that it may have been some mean-spirited teenagers or late-night drunks.
Feeley has tended to the chair over the past year by decorating it on holidays and for other special occasions. When the Philadelphia Eagles captured the Super Bowl, she adorned it with laminated newspaper articles about the team’s winning ways. For the Fourth of July, it was decked out in a patriotic motif.
“Mostly, the chair was a lot of child-like fun for me,” said Feeley, who teaches creative writing and is the wife of Sea Isle Councilman J.B. Feeley.
The chair became an overnight sensation with people strolling along the Promenade once Feeley began decorating it.
“People would treat it as a destination. They would say, ‘Meet me at the chair,’’’ she explained.
As to give it its own personality, Feeley humorously refers to it in her Facebook posts as “Chair’’ and “him.” Some of its Facebook followers also call it “Chair.”
Feeley more or less adopted it as her own community project when the chair was discovered abandoned last fall on the Promenade, chained and padlocked to the railings. Her first stab at decorating it included a scarecrow to give it an autumn feel.
She believes the chair added levity in the family-oriented seashore community and came to symbolize something broader.
“We need a little silliness on one level. The mood in the world is very dark right now,” Feeley said.
The chair has had some close calls recently. Not long ago, the frame was damaged and had to be bent back in place. Just last week, a thief stole some of the shore-themed decorations that Feeley had placed on the chair for the summer season.
Now, it is irreparably damaged. Feeley described it as “mangled.”
She doubts that she will replace it with another chair to revive her tradition of holiday decorations.
“The chair had a special character to it, and the town adopted it,” she said. “I don’t know if any other chair would have the same effect.”
In a Facebook post on Sunday that was accompanied by a photo of the destroyed chair, Feeley lamented the loss.
“Well, folks, because we live in an angry world, our Chair has succumbed to it,” she wrote.
Already, she is planning to let the vandals know of the bit of joy they have robbed from the community.
She wrote on Facebook: “After the City removes Chair, I am going to create a poster of all the joy that Chair gave us during the past year and hang it on the railing for a day. It will end with the words, ‘Are you happy now that you’ve taken this away from us?”