By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – After several years of planning and fundraising, the Shrewsbury Veterans Council welcomed guests Nov. 11 to a dedication ceremony for the new World War I (WWI) Memorial in front of the Beal Early Childhood Center. Emceeing the ceremony, Selectman Jim Kane summarized the spirit of the project's supporters.
“Through this effort, from across our very special town, rose the support to make this monument a reality,” he said.
The original monument was built over 80 years ago in honor of Shrewsbury resident Maj. Howard Beal, a fallen WWI veteran. The base of that monument was concrete, which cracked and deteriorated beyond repair. Its flagpole rusted.
In 2006, the Veterans Council and the town manager considered options for a replacement, and the WWI Memorial Committee was formed. Shrewsbury resident and architect Mike Pragano assisted with evaluating three options. When a revised plan was approved in 2009, the private fundraising effort began.
Fundraisers ranged from a coin collection with children at the Beal Early Childhood Center, amounting to hundreds of dollars, to a bipartisan St. Patrick's Day party co-hosted by the Democratic and Republican Town Committees, netting thousands more. The Donahue family donated $10,000 and Gene DeFeudis gave $25,000.
About $125,000 was raised, which is less than the initial estimated amount needed. Making up the difference, a number of businesses contributed in-kind material and services. Kane acknowledged some of the project's many contributors.
“This monument is funded through the in-kind donations of Shrewsbury businesses,” he said. “From the likes of Joe Dillon, who removed the old, diseased trees; to Kenny Polito and his men, who worked several Saturdays to complete the needed site work; to Coghlin Electric and Ted Coghlin, who donated lighting fixtures and material; to SELCO, who made it all work. And, of course, John Masiello, who served as the project's construction guru throughout.”
The base of the new monument is granite with cast-in-place concrete foundations and a 35-foot aluminum flagpole. Like the former monument, the names of eight fallen WWI veterans are inscribed: Howard Walter Beal, James E. Conlon, Herbert B. Hapgood, Joseph W. Hickey, Michael J. Nee, Byron E. Stone, Raymond Stone and James Schouler.
The American flag was raised by Commander Fred Russell of the Victor Quaranta American Legion Post 397 and Chair of the WWI Memorial Committee; Commander James Dunlevy of Charles Murphy VFW Post 10278; and Commander Walter Josti of Ray Stone American Legion Post 238.
As keynote speaker, Town Manager Dan Morgado noted that it was befitting the monument is located in front of what is now known as the Beal Early Childhood Center.
“This building is now dedicated to the education and development of our youngest citizens, who begin their journey into citizenship on this very ground dedicated to the eight men honored here,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-3rd District, thanked the veterans in attendance for their service, as well as the community for supporting them.
“The fact that this WWI monument has been resurrected is proof that the people in this community have not only a great sense of patriotism, but a great sense of respect for the men and women who served our country in the past and in the present,” he said.
A citation was presented to the Veterans Council by state Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, and state Rep. Matt Beaton, R-Shrewsbury.
The names of over 100 Shrewsbury residents who served in WWI, including two women, will be inscribed on the monument. That addition will be commemorated as part of the town's Memorial Day 2014 activities.