Marion’s River Junction Now Has a Gilda Downey Ghost Story
In the world of bar legends, Gilda Pietragalla Downey was the queen bee. Her fiery red Firebird, as iconic as her reputation, was always parked like a sentinel outside the Stone Rooster bar, the famous joint straddling Marion and Wareham.
After her retirement, Gilda became something of an enigma. Whispers and tales of her adventures filled the air, but concrete news was rare.
Earlier this year, living a life as vibrant as her style, Gilda waved goodbye to this world just shy of her 99th birthday.
It's sort of fitting that Gilda's Stone Rooster, once echoing with Gilda's laughter, was torn down. No one could have pulled off what she did in that place. Even more fitting was the fact that from the Stone Rooster's ashes rose the modern, new River Junction bar.
"There was only one problem," Heather Long-Roise said after her first visit to River Junction. "The new place didn't have a nod to Gilda."
Long-Roise is an art teacher at East Fairhaven Elementary School. So, she got to work doing what she does best.
Long-Roise googled Gilda and read through a bunch of articles about her, finding a photo that she thought she could use as a reference. Then, she got painting.
The end result was a portrait featuring two rivers behind Gilda (the River Junction), the rooster, and the SouthCoast Jazz Orchestra that was such a big part of the Stone Rooster's legacy.
When the portrait was complete, Long-Roise brought it to the new bar, hoping the owners would like it. None of the owners were there, so she was in the process of writing a note to them to explain what she was doing.
That's when the spookiness happened.
As she was writing the note about Gilda's portrait, the power suddenly went out.
"The lights went off, and someone next to me said, 'Oh, it's Gilda,'" Long-Roise said. "All the TVs shut off. The woman in the kitchen came out and announced that there were going to be no more pizzas. Then, all of a sudden all of the TV screens clicked back on. Comcast was initializing all the screens with a 'welcome' message. All except one. The TV in front of me read, 'You're home.'"
Long-Roise got goosebumps.
A few days later, she returned to check up on the painting and was pleased to see it conspicuously hung behind the bar adjacent to the first dollar earned at the establishment.
In more ways than one, Gilda's presence seems to have arrived at River Junction.
Matthew Barth contributed to this report.
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