New monument will honor soldiers lost during World War II

New monument will honor soldiers lost during World War II

Rene Boudreau holds the rendering of the new monument as designed by local artist Dan Guernon. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – A new monument in World War II Veterans Memorial Park will honor those soldiers of the Second World War who never returned home to Rhode Island.

The United Veterans Council of Woonsocket has spent the past two years planning the memorial, which will be located near the Korea and Vietnam Veterans’ monument on the Pond Street side of the park. The monument will bear the names of Woonsocket residents who were interred overseas, buried at sea, or missing in action, and whose bodies were never returned to their families after World War II.

“It will represent all of the branches that served at that time,” said Rene Boudreau, vice present of the United Veterans Council and chairman of the monument committee.

The group, he said, was first approached about the possibility of repairing an existing monument in Precious Blood Cemetery. That monument, which honors the same group of soldiers, was built several decades ago and has fallen into disrepair.

Rather than repair the old monument, said Boudreau, the council decided to construct a new monument to represent all city residents lost overseas during World War II. They hired Dan Guernon, the local artist who also designed a monument outside American Legion Post 85 and a mural at the St. Joseph Veterans Association, to create a rendering. Murray Monument of Blackstone will construct the monument at a cost of about $23,000.

Two years in, Boudreau said they’ve raised about three-quarters of their goal, mostly through private donations and fundraisers at the individual veterans’ organizations. Those efforts got a boost this week when the city’s General Assembly contingent presented a $10,000 grant from the Rhode Island House of Representatives. The Rhode Island Senate previously awarded a $4,000 grant for the project.

Along with fundraising, the group has kept busy researching names to appear on the monument. Initial lists of names were developed in the 1970s and 1980s and used to construct the monument at Precious Blood Cemetery, but those lists, said Boudreau, sometimes include names that don’t fit the criteria for the new monument.

Of the 2,903 Rhode Island residents who died overseas serving in World War II, council members identified 84 so far with ties to Woonsocket. That number, he explained, includes those who were buried overseas, but not those whose bodies were later returned to their families.

“At the end of World War II, the families were given an option if they wanted to bring them home, so they got to bury their family members at home,” he said.

The group recently placed an order for materials, but anticipates a delay before they can begin construction.

“Things being what they are, it will probably take about four months now for materials to come in,” said Boudreau.

If all goes according to plan, the council hopes to dedicate the new monument next Memorial Day.

Anyone interested in contributing to the monument can send donations to the United Veterans Council, PO Box 481, Woonsocket, RI 02895.