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The Madonna statue was erected along the Mass. Turnpike in Warren, eastbound between mile markers 68 and 69, by a man whose wife recovered from cancer.
The Madonna statue was erected along the Mass. Turnpike in Warren, eastbound between mile markers 68 and 69, by a man whose wife recovered from cancer. (Barry Chin/ Globe Staff)
STARTS & STOPS

'Our Lady of the Turnpike' is a popular stop

You have passed it hundreds of times without noticing, or seen its glow momentarily while speeding by at night between mile markers 68 and 69 on the eastbound Massachusetts Turnpike in Warren.

There on a private manicured lot sits a 2-foot-high statue of the Madonna atop a rock base. Some have referred to it as Our Lady of the Turnpike or Our Lady of the Highway, but, officially, the statue has no name. It does, however, have a story. Thanks to the anonymous reader who asked about it.

In 1963, eight years after construction of the turnpike divided his dairy farm in half, Alfred Brodeur's wife, Eldora, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy and radiation treatment, according to their son, Alfred A. Brodeur.

A year later, she recovered.

Gleeful over his wife's recovery, Alfred Brodeur erected the Madonna, which his son said was intended to encourage prayer, especially the recitation of the rosary, which Alfred felt was dwindling in the early 1960s. He placed a kneeler and a bench in front of the statue.

The three Brodeur children chipped in and brought electricity out to the statue to light it at night. Years later, rather than having to maintain the light's timer, they installed a light sensor.

It seems to have worked. Alfred and Eldora Brodeur celebrated their 40th anniversary in 1969 and their 50th in 1979 before Eldora died Feb. 16, 1981, at 69. Alfred Brodeur died in 1998. And despite the growth and demand for land around Warren, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to live and play on the land of the family's Sunnybrook farm.

And 41 years later, the Madonna still is there. And Alfred A. Brodeur, who lives down the road from the family farm, said it remains popular. People stop at his home to ask directions, and his brother-in-law and sister, who live on the family farm, continue to find rosaries, fresh and artificial flowers, and notes of thanks at the roadside shrine. Many of the notes are from survivors of cancer, or those recently diagnosed.

Alfred A. Brodeur said the family does not want people stopping on the turnpike to visit the Madonna, but they do. And over the years, a symbiotic relationship has developed between the family and maintenance crews for the Mass. Pike, who continue to clear the growth at the state-owned area in front of the statue to help keep it seen.

With his parents long gone, the roadside statue still ''brings us very close," Alfred said. ''I can still look at it and it still brings tears to my eyes."

The Slog
We are pleased to announce that, starting tomorrow, Starts & Stops will enter the world of blogs. We wanted to call it the Slog, but that didn't even get a smirk from the editors.

We'll be updating this new site (www.boston.com/starts/blog) with a lot of information, including the latest advisories from the MBTA, reader gripes, and questions about Boston's sometimes frustrating transportation systems. It's the column you love, seven days a week, with hyperlinks. We'll even post the Big Dig closures. If you like it, please bookmark it. We promise to make it fun and informative.

The blog will work much the same way the column does, based largely on reader input sent to the column's e-mail address at starts@globe.com. But unlike most blogs, it's not just one person spouting off. It's you spouting off, though, like the column, we get to select which gripes are posted.

We will use it to answer questions that normally would not find space in the column, or reprint letters we find amusing or refreshing.

We also plan to look at the larger world's transportation issues. For example, would the nation's first ''diverging diamond" interchange in Kansas City work here in Boston? We'll check it out.

We hope you like it. Griping about getting around is a professional sport in Massachusetts, and, as always, keep those letters coming.

Pit stops
Aileen of Somerville wrote to say the T did not update their Palm schedules after they expired last Sunday.

We contacted the T and they fixed the problem . . . MBTA ambassadors will be working throughout the system this weekend through Tuesday night to welcome visitors attending the NCAA women's basketball Final Four tournament at the TD Banknorth Garden.

The semifinals take place tonight and the finals on Tuesday night. Extra personnel will be at North Station, Airport, Back Bay, Copley, Government Center, Park Street, Hynes, Arlington, and Haymarket to help direct visitors from Baton Rouge, Chapel Hill, College Park, and Durham (LSU, UNC, the University of Maryland, and Duke are the teams coming to town).

The event is expected to attract 30,000 visitors to the city.

Can't get there . . .
(Note: some of the odd closing times below are meant to avoid impacting the NCAA women's basketball championship Tuesday night)

Exit 20B (Pike west) off I-93 south will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday morning. Access to Albany Street will remain open.

I-93 south around Sullivan Square will close 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow. Onramps to I-93 south from Mystic Avenue and City Square also will close.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 south and the Callahan Tunnel will close 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow and Wednesday nights. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Exit 20B to the Pike west and Albany Street off I-93 south will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow and Wednesday nights. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Exit 20A (South Station) off I-93 south will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow and Wednesday. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Two lanes of I-93 south approaching and through downtown will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Thursday. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The Essex Street onramp to I-93 south will close 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday and 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The Haymarket onramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 north will close 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow, 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday, and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.

The ramp at Exit 20 (Pike west) off I-93 north will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Wednesday morning. Access from Exit 20 to South Station will remain open.

I-93 north will close to all traffic at Exit 16 (Southampton St./Andrew Sq.) 11:30 p.m. today to 5 a.m. tomorrow.

Two lanes of I-93 north through downtown and Charlestown will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Work also will take place 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Access to the Pike east off I-93 north's Exit 20 (Pike/Logan/South Station) will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday morning. Access to Kneeland Street and South Station will remain open.

Exit 26 (Storrow Drive) off I-93 north will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. today through Saturday.

The underpass from Storrow Drive east, and the ramp from Leverett Circle to I-93 north and the Tobin Bridge will close 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday.

The Essex Street onramp to I-93 north will close 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday.

The Albany Street onramp to the Pike west will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. One lane of the Pike west between the Ted Williams Tunnel and I-93 will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday.

The onramp from Congress Street to I-93 in South Boston, and the Pike west's Exit 24 to I-93 will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday and 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday.

One lane of the Pike west between the Ted Williams Tunnel and I-93 will close 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday and 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday. One lane of the Pike west in the Ted Williams Tunnel will close 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday morning.

One lane of Pike west around Logan Airport will close 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday.

The Frontage Road Northbound onramp to Pike west at the Broadway Bridge intersection will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Wednesday morning.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to Government Center and Haymarket will close 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow.

The Congress Street onramp to I-93 south and the Pike west will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow and Wednesday nights. The ramp also will shut down 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The Sumner Tunnel onramp to Storrow Drive will close 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight through Saturday morning. Sumner Tunnel access to Haymarket will remain open.

The ramp at Exit 24 (I-93) off the Pike east will close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday morning.

Access from Frontage Road and Albany Street to the Pike east and Logan Airport will close 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday morning.

Complain to us at starts@globe.com. Don't forget to send us your hometown. Outside the paper, the column can be found at www.boston.com/news/local/startsandstops/. Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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