Out & About: Concrete ready to pour for new Hartford monument 

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 10-15-2023 2:55 AM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Veterans Park could soon be home to a new monument honoring Hartford residents who served in World Wars I and II.

The concrete foundation is scheduled to be poured this week and the goal is to have the monument itself installed early next spring, with a dedication on Memorial Day.

The project costs $73,000 — including $58,400 for the monument itself — and the Hartford Monument Committee has already raised $31,000 from grants and private donations.

“We’ve been very fortunate to get donations of labor and expertise, so the majority of the money we raise can be spent on the monument itself,” Mary Kay Brown, who took up the cause to restore the monuments in 2019, said in a phone interview last week. “I think it’s amazing. The public support and the support by the town has really made this a viable project.”

The committee recently earned a Better Places grant from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, bringing it nearer its fundraising goal. In order to receive the $28,000 in funding, the committee must raise half that amount by Nov. 22. Supporters had contributed nearly $3,000 as of Friday afternoon. Those who donate at least $125 are eligible to have a memorial brick engraved with the name of a veteran on the pathway that will surround the monument.

After World War I, the town put up a cast iron monument outside of town hall that later fell into disrepair; the individual nameplates of those who served ended up in the basement of Garipay House, home of the Hartford Historical Society. The town also honored World War II veterans with a monument, but that too was destroyed and never replaced.

While the new monument won’t be cast iron, it shares the same concept as the original two — to provide a list of the hundreds of Hartford residents who served in the wars. Names will be listed on bronze plaques that will then be attached to a block of granite. A half-moon piece from the original WWI monument that reads “1914 Honor Roll 1918, World War, Hartford VT” will be at the top of one side. A symbol from the Vermont state flag, which also appeared on the WWI monument, will be on the other side of the new monument.

“I think this means a lot personally to many people who live in town,” Brown said. “These are people that lived in, loved and helped build our town.”

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The committee’s work really took off in 2022. Volunteers began reaching out to area veterans groups and businesses for support. Committee member Linda Miller took on the role of tracking down and confirming the names of veterans. The WWII veterans were particularly challenging to track down: The committee had the nameplates of the WWI monument, but all they had for the former WWII monument was a photograph, in which the names appeared too small to see clearly.

But with the help of Junction Arts and Media (JAM), which scanned the photo and enlarged it, “we could see the names,” Miller said in a phone interview this summer. “It was incredible.”

Miller looked through newspaper archives, town reports, draft card records and birth certificates to confirm — and find — the names of those who served.

“I love doing that kind of stuff,” Miller said.

One of Miller’s notable finds was the names of four women who served but weren’t listed on the first monument.

“They’re going to make the monument this time,” Miller said.

There are approximately 292 names of those who served in WWI, including six who were killed in action, and approximately 714 for WWII, including 25 killed in action, according to Miller.

As Miller was tracking down names, other committee members also were working with town officials to get approval and support from the town’s planning, zoning and select boards. From the beginning, Hartford Parks and Recreation Department Director Scott Hausler was one of the committee’s biggest supporters, Brown said.

In addition to its name, Veterans Park is the right location for the monument because it is in downtown White River Junction, Hausler said in an email last week. There are also pathways and benches, which make it more accessible.

“Veterans Park provides a very peaceful and a reflective environment and by situating it there, ensures it will be seen by many, further preserving the memory of those in Hartford’s community who served in WWI and WWII,” Hausler wrote in an email.

Hausler also said that the project was a good example of how town government and community groups can work together.

“Such efforts not only honor our veterans but also fosters community bonding and shared values,” he said.

To learn more about the project and to donate, visit Patronicity.com/MonumentProject. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.