World War I artifacts discovered in American Legion attic

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Two large frames memorialize Marlborough’s World War I veterans and were found in the attic of the American Legion.

By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator

MARLBOROUGH – Nearly everyone can identify with the feeling of finding long-forgotten items stored in the attic. But, when the items are more than a century old, such a find becomes newsworthy.

Commander Mike Ferro of the Akroyd Houde Post 132 American Legion recalls that Marlborough resident Matty Sargent, a Navy reservist and ardent history buff, recently asked about taking a look in the attic to see if there were any interesting artifacts stored up there. 

Ferro admits that he’d only been up there once himself and was completely shocked when Sargent unearthed two framed pictures that had been donated to Post 132 in 1920.

Bob Lord and Matty Sargent find the line for Ralph J. Lord, listing his birth and death, on a recently rediscovered calligraphy piece that notes local World War I service histories.

One is a compilation of vignettes of all the Marlborough WWI veterans, while the other details the births and deaths of those veterans, including where they were killed, for those who did not come home. 

According to Ferro, the list appears to have been written in calligraphy drawn painstakingly by hand by a woman named Mazie Kane Wells. Nothing is known about her as of yet. 

Find keeps memories alive

According to Sargent, this photo collage will be a big boon to how history is remembered in Marlborough. 

“As more information becomes available online, it is easier to tell these men’s stories, but their photos really add a new dimension to their life and sacrifice,” he said. “As there are no living World War I veterans, it is important for families of not only those who died but those who served, to keep photos, mementos, journals and the stories of these men and women alive.” 

History buff reaches out to descendants

Quite adept at researching veterans’ lives and tracing families through tools like Ancestry.com, Sargent has been finding connections to those pictured in the photo collage. 

Many of the relatives have subsequently shared newspapers, copies of citations, or even pictures of medals their loved ones had received so that he can make appropriate tags to hang on the monuments. 

In one such case, Sargent reached out to Bob Lord, a former Marlborough resident living in Westborough. Sargent asked if Lord was related to the Ralph J. Lord who was killed in July of 1918. He found that not only was Lord related to the young man on the photo, it was his paternal uncle. 

“My father was only two years old in 1917 when Ralph left for war and had no memories of that older brother at all,” explained Lord. 

10-year-old’s curiosity sparks lesson on heritage

As Lord remembers, he was about ten years old before he even knew he had had an uncle who died in World War I. 

A photo of a recently found display of World War I veterans shows Ralph J. Lord, who died fighting abroad in 1918.

“My parents sent me to the Elderkin Dance Studio on Main Street, and I hated it!” he laughed. 

Waiting to be picked up one night, Lord wandered across the street to see Marlborough’s famous Doughboy statue in front of the Walker Building. To his surprise, he saw the name “Ralph J. Lord” listed on the statue. 

“I asked my father about it, and he admitted that it was his older brother, but that he never knew him because of the age difference,” Lord recalled. 

Although curious at the time, a ten-year-old’s attention span soon took him in other directions. 

Years later still, Lord saw a copy of a local paper from 1918. 

I was able to read about Ralph J. Lord,” he said.

He learned that Lord trained at Fort Devens with the National Guard and read that the “pluck” his uncle had shown on the baseball fields of Marlborough High had been evident on the fields of France. 

Ralph Lord was killed on July 20, 1918, at the Battle of Chateau Thierry in Belgium, part of Company K of the 104th Infantry.

Ralph J. Lord rests at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France.

Between July 17 and July 23, five young Marlborough men were killed in that battle, with the other four being William Brigham, Jr., Benjamin Francis, Charles Bellows and Henry Laviolette.

Lord was initially buried by railroad tracks, probably near where he had fallen. But his body was exhumed, and moved to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France, where he still lies. 

There is also a marker at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Marlborough. That was placed sometime around 1935, apparently at the request of a custodian at the Bigelow School, according to Lord.

Discovery puts a face to the name

With all the research Lord had done on his own, he had never been able to find a picture of his uncle until now.

“I want to thank another Marlborough history buff, Bill Tate, and of course Matty Sargent for all of their help with digging up facts about Ralph,” he said. “Now, thanks to Matty’s find, I can finally put a face to the name.”

At this time, Commander Ferro is not sure where exactly the rediscovered frames will go. He assured the Community Advocate, though, that they will no longer be in the attic.