Honor Roll 7th and last part of War Memorial talk by David Ruell, Oct 12, 2011
By the late 20th century, the wooden World War II Honor Roll was deteriorating. It has been described as in bad shape, rotting and tipping over. The earliest mention I have found in the newspapers on replacing it was in 1990 when Roger Calley, then commander of the Dupuis Cross Post of the American Legion, called a meeting on the afternoon of Sunday, November 4, to discuss replacing the memorial “ which has long since deteriorated”. The paper says that the meeting was held but gives no details. Because the Legion records for the period in which the monument was planned and built are not available, I am a little vague on the early history of the effort, particularly on dates but the main effort seems to have been in the early to mid-1990s.
The effort was not only to replace the World War II honor roll but also to remember the veterans of later wars, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts.
One of the first questions to be decided was whether to include the names of all the veterans or just a general inscription. I am told that Clancy Jordan, who wanted all the names included, went out and persuaded a lot of Legion members who did not ordinarily attend Post meetings to come and vote for the larger monument and that side did prevail. This of course significantly increased the cost of the monument, which ended up costing about $20,000.
Fundraising is another area where I don’t have a lot of information. I am told that there were some large donations, Clancy Jordan’s among them. Memorial donations were made in memory of veterans for the project, such as Bernard Sanborn whose family asked for donations to the memorial in his 1994 obituary. Memorial contributions were later described as significant to the effort. The most significant fundraiser was the Sunday breakfasts that began on February 20, 1994, specifically to raise money for the monument. They were so successful that the Legion continued them after the monument was finished and landscaped. The Legion and the Auxiliary also had a dinner dance, raffles, “continuous raffles” according to the newspaper, and perhaps other fundraisers. I am not sure what other organizations did. I recall that the Historical Society made a modest donation of $100. The Woman’s Club also formed a committee to raise funds for the monument, although I am not sure what they contributed. The Post formed a monument committee including Leon Dustin, Ed Brown, Clarence “Clancy” Jordan, Harold Baker, Cyrus Gray, Leonard “Peewee” Duguay, Arnold Cummings, James Sargent, and Ernest Paquette. Four of these committeemen, Dustin, Brown, Duguay, and Cummings, entered the service from other towns, so under the criteria established by the Post, they were not qualified to appear on the monument. The Post noted that the veterans listed at the moment had to be residents of Ashland when they joined the service. One of the tasks of the committee was to develop that list of names. For World War II, the committee started with the names that had been included on the wooden honor roll, but this turned out to include people who lived in neighboring towns, New Hampton, Holderness, and Bridgewater, at the time. So those names were weeded out, a move which was not well received by some. For the other wars- Vietnam, Korea, Lebanon/Grenada, and the Persian Gulf, the committee started from scratch, relying a lot on memory and using high school yearbooks. Versions of the list were developed and refined mostly in 1995. Ernie Paquette showed me four different printouts dated that year. A copy of the list was published in the Record Enterprise in April of 1995 so that the community could comment on spellings, omissions, and veterans who did not qualify. There were around 400 names on the monument when it was erected.
The Legionnaires turned to the local monument company Pemi-Baker Memorials, a family affair started after Sanborn Memorials closed down. Lawrence Lee, his son-in-law Ernest Paquette, and Ernie’s son David all worked with the committee on planning the monument. The committee asked that the six insignias of the armed forces be included in the monument and they were placed on the front beveled edge of the short base for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. For the monument, Pemi Baker Memorials turned to the granite monument firm they were then working with – Rouleau Granite Company of Barre, Vermont. The firm had several designers working in their offices. The Vermont company prepared a design, a blueprint which the committee approved, for a simple but dignified large piece of granite, 6 ½ feet tall by 11 feet wide and ten inches thick, on a short base of granite with the beveled front edge. It had the same title at the top as the old wooden memorial – Ashland Honor Roll.
Winston Titus, the contractor from Laconia who was then doing a lot of work at the woolen mill, prepared the foundation, which is six feet deep into the ground, two feet deep front to back, and over twelve feet wide. Titus’s crew dug the hole and poured the concrete for the foundation. Titus never charged a cent for their work, which was the main reason the project came in under budget.
The stone monument was cut, polished, and engraved in Barre by the Rouleau Granite Company. It was completed in the fall of 1995, then hauled here from
Vermont by Bellavance Trucking of Barre, which among other hauling jobs, makes a specialty of moving granite monuments. It was of course the only thing on the truck. There was a last-minute snag when the crane that was supposed to erect the monument broke down in Tilton. But after some calling around, a crane was obtained from Rick Brown who normally used it to erect steel frames, and the erection of the monument proceeded as planned.
The dedication on Veterans Day November 11, 1995, attracted a crowd of over 100. The speakers included Post Commander Leon Dustin, who explained the history of the project, also William Runney or Rooney of the 40 & 8 groups, Roger Merrow, Commander of Legion District 7, Legion Department Vice Commander Reginald Hunt, and Col. Gerard Boyle of US Marine Corps Reserve. After the speeches, Ernest and David Paquette removed the blue tarp covering the monument to a round of applause. Commander Dustin dedicated the monument and led the audience in singing the national anthem. The ceremony ended with an 18 gun salute from the honor guard and the playing of Taps.
As might be expected in such a large research project, the list of names, despite the best efforts of the committee, turned out to be incomplete, and there have been updates of the monument’s lists about every five years or so. Only two names have been added after the initial alphabetical listing to World War 2, but 10 have been added to Korea and 17 to Vietnam. The 2006 update, which was dedicated on Veterans Day, included the addition of names for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars on the back and another insignia for the NH National Guard on the base in the center of the other service insignias.
There has been new landscaping around the memorials on the old Deane lot, including the addition of spotlights for nighttime illumination. In 1996, the complex of monuments was you might say completed by the addition of a flagpole behind the honor roll, given by L. W. Packard Co in memory of John L. “Jack” Glidden, a World War 2 veteran who died in 1993. The flagpole was dedicated to Veterans Day in 1996.
In closing, I would just like to say that I admire the tradition we have here of honoring the veterans of our wars by monuments listing them all by name. Some towns are content with a monument to the unspecified Veterans of All Wars, others with just the names of the dead, but Ashland, like many other small New Hampshire towns, remembers everyone who served.