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Shrewsbury resident studies life of Walter J. Paton

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Shrewsbury – Who was Walter J. Paton? On Wednesday April 2 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Shrewsbury Senior Center, Erica Bodden will be addressing just that question.

Bodden, a 19-year resident of Shrewsbury, has recently become an amateur historian. She caught the history bug when her two sons were attending the Walter J. Paton Elementary School during the 2003-2004 school year. At that time she was the president of the Parent Teacher Organization and she became inspired by Coolidge Elementary school having a Calvin Coolidge Day. She decided that Paton should have their own Walter J. Paton Day.

"I thought, 'We should have a Walter J. Paton Day to figure out just who this guy is,' and we did," Bodden said. "We held it on June 4 during that year, which would have been his 100th birthday."

Through research, Bodden learned that Walter J. Paton was a beloved teacher who taught math at the Beal High School from 1930 to 1941. After training for the U.S. Army, Paton went to Africa to serve in World War II. He died while serving the country March 4, 1945. He left behind a wife and three children, who were residents of Walnut Street in Shrewsbury.

Bodden also learned through her research that one of Paton's children, daughter Ann McGrath, lives in Hampton, N.H. She had been a child at the time of her father's death. Bodden said that McGrath was enthusiastic about the event and provided her with as much information as she could in order to ready the school for the celebration.

"Over the past few years, I've kept in touch with Ann," Bodden said. "I've even had the privilege of being invited to her home."

A surprise came in September 2007, when McGrath presented a copy of a scrapbook to Bodden and to Paton School Principal Jayne Wilkin. According to Bodden, McGrath is grateful that the Shrewsbury community still thinks of her father.

"He's gone but not forgotten," McGrath told Bodden. "It makes me feel good to know people are still thinking of him."

After receiving the scrapbook, Bodden decided she'd like to do more with it. Her ultimate goal is to create a documentary about Paton. She will be at the Senior Center April 2 with the scrapbook.

"There are wonderful articles of other Shrewsbury residents in this scrapbook," she said, "such as Ensign Kehoe and even a wedding announcement of Lt. Ernest Tosi."

Bodden would like people to come and reminisce about Paton and what life was like in Shrewsbury during the 1940s. She is asking any and all Shrewsbury residents to share any information about Paton or that time.

"Maybe you know something about that time or have a memory of when, in 1950, the Walter J. Paton School was built," Bodden said.

Shrewsbury resident Kelly Dupuis appreciates that Bodden is looking into Paton's life and the history of the school.

"I went to Paton and never even knew who he was," she said.

Bodden is in the initial phases of collecting more information about Paton and she is hopeful that residents will be able to aid in her research.

"If we don't get this down, it will be a piece of history that will be lost," she said.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to meet Bodden at the Senior Center April 2 or send her e-mail at spinnaker5@townisp.com.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=2110

Posted by on Mar 28 2008. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Shrewsbury resident studies life of Walter J. Paton”

  1. Walter J. Paton Jr.

    Hello, Not sure what i can add, but please feel free to call me on my cell at 978-514-4266. Thank you, Walter..

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