Heath plans veterans memorial dedication

  • From left: Heath Veterans Memorial Committee members Bob Bourke and Gerard Gilbert stand near the center stone of the newly completed Heath Veterans Memorial, which will be dedicated on Nov. 4. Recorder Photo/Diane Broncaccio

  • From left: Bob Bourke and Gerard Gilbert of the Heath Veterans Memorial Committee stand by the center stone of the new veterans memorial. The memorial will be dedicated in a ceremony on Nov. 4. Recorder Photo/Diane Broncaccio

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HEATH — After four years of planning and fundraising, the new Heath Veterans Memorial is in place on the Town Common and will be inaugurated in a brief dedication ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 4, beginning at 11 a.m.

When the Veterans Memorial Committee was formed in 2013, the town had a single stone monument on the common, with a plaque honoring only the town’s World War I and II veterans.

Members of the committee — David Howland, Bob Bourke, Gerard Gilbert, Peter Smith and Dennis Peters — say that no one knows who was responsible for the memorial. Also, there were framed plaques in Community Hall with other veterans’ names, but no one knew the origins of those plaques, either.

So, the committee decided to come up with a way to honor all town veterans. The criteria set was that anyone who lived in Heath and joined the military during that time was to be included in the memorial — from the Revolutionary War era to the current day.

Now, there are five stones in a semi-circle, including one “blank” stone to honor future service people.

The hardest part was vetting all the names of veterans. Heath was known as “Charlemont Hill” during the Revolutionary War and it wasn’t incorporated as a separate town until 1785. And because Heath uses five postal ZIP codes, some people who appeared to be living in other towns actually lived in Heath. The research ranged from visiting graves for information, and the knowledge of family histories by some of the committee members. Also, Town Clerk Hilma Sumner helped with the name-vetting process, as did Susan Smith.

Because the names were to be cast in bronze, the committee left space for additional names to be included on the plaques, if needed. Several progress reports were published in the Heath Herald newsletter and a names list was displayed at the Heath Fair.

While vetting the names of town veterans, the committee decided the cost of the expanded memorial would come strictly from private donations, and they set of goal of $10,000. However, residents exceeded the goal, raising $14,000. The additional money helped to pay for a new flag pole and additional landscaping.

Since Heath’s landscape is filled with stone walls and quartz rocks, the bronze plaques have been mounted onto white quartz boulders. The committee says it took two years to find the right stones and move them to the common, with help from the town Highway Department. The largest center stone, weighing about seven tons, had been sitting near the Solomon Temple barn on the Heath Fairgrounds.

Conway School of Landscape Design student Janice Schmidt presented options for the town, and her report, along with the history of this project will be donated to the town, for its records and for historical documentation.

The dedication will include the raising of the flag, and speeches for the occasion. Two Mohawk Trail Regional School music students will perform “Taps.”

Reach Diane Broncaccio at
413-772-0261, ext. 277 or dbroncaccio@recorder.com