Former Greenfield teacher, killed in Vietnam, still loved

  • Army 1st Lt. Bernard James Lovett Jr. was killed in Vietnam in 1970. COURTESY PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/24/2020 11:56:05 AM

GREENFIELD — Shortly before he was deployed to Vietnam to serve his country, Army 1st Lt. Bernard James Lovett Jr. had a nice dinner at the house of fellow Greenfield Junior High School teacher Courtney Woodcock and his wife.

The three broke bread and enjoyed a bottle of wine Lovett brought before the guest of honor said it was time to go.

“When he left, he shook hands with me and everything and he was pretty emphatic, saying, ‘This will be the last time (we shake hands),’” Woodcock remembered. “He had a feeling that he wouldn’t survive.

“I kind of smiled and said, ‘You’ll make it all right, Bernie. Don’t worry about it,’” Woodcock recalled.

Lovett was proven right and Woodcock was proven wrong when the 26-year-old was killed on Oct. 16, 1970, by gunfire after Viet Cong fighters had formed a horseshoe configuration around American and South Vietnamese troops who were resting and eating in the Hau Nghia Province.

Lovett’s death sent shock waves and grief throughout Greenfield and his native Springfield.

Friend Jim Fotopulos, who had hired Lovett at Greenfield Junior High School and served as his supervisor, remembers entering the school at about 7:20 a.m. one morning and someone told him about having read in a Springfield newspaper of Lovett’s death.

“Of course, I was crestfallen,” recalled Fotopulos, now 84.

According to a biography written by Stephen Judycki, Lovett’s remains were consigned to Corridan Funeral Home, owned by the parents of Lovett’s fiancee, Kathy, in Chicopee and he received a full military funeral. Lovett was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Before his death, he had been awarded the Defense Service, Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign medals and the Sharpshooter badge with automatic rifle bar. He is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Springfield.

Fotopulos said ninth-graders at the time raised enough to have a plaque dedicated to Lovett at the school but it was lost or misplaced when it was in the process of becoming Greenfield Middle School. He said Lovett, who had moved to Greenfield for the job, taught ancient and medieval history and was extremely popular with students.

“He was an outstanding teacher. Kids loved him,” Fotopulos recalled last week. “He was a loss to our community.”

Fotopulos said he offered to write a letter to the draft board to get Lovett a deferment but the young man insisted on serving because he had known students sent to Vietnam and killed after graduating.

Woodcock, 89, said he remembers his friend as always looking spiffy.

“He was a sharp dresser, boy,” he recalled. “He never came to school without his shoes shined, tie on.”

More about Lovett’s story can be found at bit.ly/2ZvpEDo.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


Please support the Greenfield Recorder's COVID-19 coverage

Thank you for your support of the Recorder.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy