Peers honor service-minded vet

  • Chad Wright, Greenfield site director of Building Bridges Veterans Initiative, addresses veterans at the Elks Lodge on Thursday at a weekly luncheon. Wright announced today's holiday luncheon is named in honor of Word War II veteran Ronald Powers, who died last week at 91 years old. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Ronald Powers, left, receives a certificate of recognition with fellow WWII veteran Bernard Schatz, center. City Councilor Maria Burge, right, reads the certificate at a Building Bridges luncheon in 2017. Powers died this year. Recorder file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 12/28/2018 8:24:56 AM

GREENFIELD — Breaking from the typical tradition of simply schmoozing at the weekly luncheon, the veterans at the Elks Lodge took a moment Thursday for prayer, led by Rev. Christopher Carlisle. 

The prayer on this day was in honor of Ronald J. Powers, a World War II veteran, a Greenfield High School graduate of 1945, a former deputy chief of the Greenfield Fire Department, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 417 in Greenfield, the Elks Club and the Loyal Order of Moose, a Turners Falls resident and a man who has become a fixture at these Thursday luncheons since the very first one started two years ago. 

There wasn’t a “dry eye in the place,” Chad Wright, the veterans initiative’s Greenfield site director, said. 

The group, which usually draws about 80 people from the area for a free meal hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the Building Bridges Veterans Initiative of Greenfield, remembered Powers, 91, who had died in the comfort of his home Dec. 19. 

At this week’s luncheon, which celebrates the holiday season, about 100 people showed up for the prime rib meal, sponsored by $2,000 of donations. They learned that Wright had decided to rename the holiday luncheon to the Ronald Powers Memorial Holiday Meal.  

As veterans ate meals and swapped stories, two WWII veterans continued on with their meal Thursday, recalling Powers and his part in their weekly luncheons.

“We used to come to these together all the time,” said Bernie Schatz.

Herbie Hohengasser nodded, smiling at the memories. They used to talk about everything, he said. 

Hohengasser, Schatz and Powers all went from Greenfield High School to the war at the same time, and had been friends virtually ever since. 

Powers helped to organize for the three of them last year free flights to visit Washington, D.C., and the war memorials by Honor Flights of New England. Thursday they reflected on the excitement of that day. Before going, they were honored at the luncheon back in Sept. 2017. Powers, then wrapped in a homemade quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, said, “I don’t deserve this.” Carlisle had remarked on the camaraderie in the room. 

Now, a little over a year later, they are remembering their friend and fellow veteran. 

“At least he’s recognized,” Hohengasser said, “and he’s been coming since day one.” 

Former City Councilor Maria Burge, liaison to the veterans community for Building Bridges and a veteran herself, said Powers was a great dancer. 

“He always looked forward to my hugs and it made me feel good that I could bring a little happiness every Thursday,” Burge said. “He made my day, every day.” 

Frank Carliell, 11, a local Boy Scout who helps out with the weekly meals, said, “It’s a nice feeling to help our veterans.” He recalled stories from some of the veterans in the building. 

At the memorial luncheon in honor of Powers, the Greenfield VFW Post donated $200 in his honor toward future meals. 

For those looking to continue paying respects to Powers, a Liturgy of Christian burial will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on K Street in Turners Falls. 

In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations either for the Hospice of Franklin County or the Connor Strong Memorial Scholarship at Franklin County Technical School, which remembers his grandson, Connor, who died last year. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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