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Harvard remembers its war dead in subdued Memorial Day ceremonies

A group of about 20 people gathered at the Harvard Common Monday morning under a drizzling sky to commemorate residents who lost their lives in service to their country. The attendees were mostly firefighters along with a few veterans, a recent ROTC graduate, an assistant scoutmaster, and members of the War Monument Restoration Committee, all of whom wore masks out of concern for community health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Army Maj. (Ret.) Nancy Cronin stands at attention after placing a wreath on the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War marker monument. (Photos by Lisa Aciukewicz)

Led by former Army Maj. Steven Cronin, a member of the restoration committee, the group visited six sites to lay wreaths and salute those who served. They began at 9 a.m. at the Civil War memorial, which bears the names of 17 Harvard residents, before proceeding across the street to the monument honoring veterans of World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War. Their next stop was the World War I memorial, which commemorates Pvt. Edward Thomas, who died in battle in July 1918. In the Town Center Cemetery, the group laid a wreath at the Founders’ memorial before heading to Still River for a stop at the memorial honoring Major Roger Skilling, who died in the Korean War. The procession ended at the monument to veterans at Bellevue Cemetery.

Army Col. (Ret.) Duane Barber stands at attention.

At each site, the group took a moment to salute while Cronin played taps from a cone-shaped speaker he held in one hand. Cronin said the electronic device was made to be slipped inside a bugle to simulate actual playing. Today, however, was not the type of show that called for imposter bugles, and the device, unadorned by brass but clear in its resonance, sufficed.

“We’re here to honor and commemorate those Harvard residents that served in our nation’s wars from the Revolutionary War … through the Civil War and Spanish-American War … World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars,” explained Jon Schoenberg, chair of the War Monument Restoration Committee.

The town’s typical Memorial Day celebrations include a parade and a speech at the World War I memorial but this year’s plans had to be called off due to state guidelines for social distancing.

The smaller gathering was a last-minute decision and was not publicized, so as to keep the crowd to a minimum. Schoenberg said the idea for the wreath-laying came from Cronin who, along with his wife and fellow veteran, Nancy, former veterans agent for Harvard Dennis Liddy, and veteran Don Green, had planted geraniums at the memorial sites. Cronin wanted to have a wreath-laying as well and Schoenberg agreed. “Without this being a … formally announced formation, this is the way we chose to commemorate Memorial Day,” he said.

Vietnam veteran and lifelong town resident Lorin Johnson appreciated the gathering. He hadn’t known it was happening but had shown up at the Common that morning to pay his respects to Harvard’s veterans. “I was just thinking about it over the last couple of days that there has to be something ... done to show some respect and remembrance of them [veterans] and what they did,” said Johnson. “Nothing was going to happen; it just didn’t seem right.” He was pleased to have run into the group. “It was nice to see the firefighters; that was a surprise and it was a good show on their part,” he said.

Susan Watt, another Harvard resident, observed from beside Johnson. She, too, came out not knowing anything was taking place, “I just wanted to make sure that something was done down in Still River at the memorial there,” she said. She described the gathering as “just right” for the circumstances.

Respecting social distancing protocol, Nancy Cronin (center) stands at attention along with the Harvard Fire Department, Boy Scouts, and her husband Steve Cronin (far right) in front of the War World I memorial on the Common, May 25. 

Since last year’s Memorial Day, the final roll call of those who served in military uniform on behalf of all citizens past, present, and future, has grown longer. We recognize these former Harvard residents, relatives of residents, and friends who died during the past 12 months.

William David Anderson, U.S. Army
John Allen Ball, U.S. Air Force
Warren Lesley Henderson, U.S. Air Force
Michael J. Horgan, U.S. Marines
Robert Theodore Hynes, U.S. Army
John Francis Johnson, U.S. Navy
George Edward Lenertz, U.S. Air Force
Stanley Levine, U.S. Navy
Charles A. Perry, U.S. Army
Albion L. Smith Jr., U.S. Army
David L. Vannicola, U.S. Navy
Norman Wheeler, U.S. Army

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