Shrewsbury historian brings to life the stories behind the town’s Veterans Squares

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury historian brings to life the stories behind the town’s Veterans Squares
Paul Brueggemann and David Prince at Schouler Square at the corner of Raymond Avenue and Grafton Street in Shrewsbury
Photo/Melanie Petrucci

Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury native and history buff Paul Brueggemann had the idea to research the Veteran Squares in town. The opportunity to tackle it came during the pandemic. 

The 31 squares are named in memory of veterans with Shrewsbury connections. The veterans who had served include those who served or volunteered in the Revolutionary War, both World Wars and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

Brueggemann grew up in Shrewsbury, is a 1980 graduate of Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury and studied math at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. He works in the insurance industry, but his passion is genealogy.

Brueggemann used that interest to bring to life the names of the veterans   

His inspiration came while “fitting the pieces together” of his grandfather’s Navy career in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He became fascinated with the history  of veterans, and made some connections with some veterans groups in Worcester. He also co-authored the book, “They Ventured Far in the Cause of Liberty : the Names of Worcester’s Memorial Auditorium” which told the story of the 355 World War I soldiers that are memorialized there.

“When I was researching these people, I came across a website that a Worcester policeman developed about the Worcester Veterans squares,” he said. “That got me thinking about the Veteran Squares in Shrewsbury.”

Brueggemann reached out to Don Gray from the Shrewsbury Soldier Commission who was helpful in identifying the squares in Shrewsbury.   

He then contacted the Shrewsbury Historical Society (SHS) to see if it would be interested in being involved with the project.

David Prince, SHS webmaster, jumped at the chance Working together they created a detailed section for the historical society’s website that will include a listing of the squares organized by war or conflict with the name of the square, location and which war, military branch, and rank of the veteran recognized.

Brueggemann’s discoveries included squares with the well-known names of Lieutenant Colonel Walter John Paton and Sergeant, First Class Raymond Stone. Additionally, the veterans ranged in age from eighteen to 70 and the most recent square dedication was in 2007.

Brueggemann noted that he combed through census records, high school photos, newspaper articles, military records, obituaries, and records held at the Massachusetts Archives.

 “I’ve always felt that there was a lot to learn from the past. The problem is that in our everyday lives we view the present, we look to the future, while the past turns into stories and memories. Given enough time – we often start to forget,” Prince noted. 

“As it started developing it became more and more fascinating,” Brueggemann said. “The stories are incredible and its really around dedication and what impressed me the most was the youth and how young these kids were.”

Prince agreed and said that it’s the personal stories that grab one’s attention.

“What really struck me was the abruptness of war. I would be editing the biographies that Paul sent over and when you’re that close to the material you can almost feel the situation these guys were facing and then suddenly, SNAP, the story ends. One bullet, one land mine and the story is over,” Prince remarked.

Their goal was to have the listing completed to go live on the SHS website in time for Veterans Day. To learn more, visit https://www.shrewsburyhistoricalsociety.org

 

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