Northfield committee chairman seeks to honor native war hero

  • A plaque in Northfield Town Hall was originally hung in honor of Charles Preston for his service during World War I. A century after his death, efforts are now underway to award Preston with the Distinguished Service Medal. Staff Photo/Zack DeLuca

  • Northfield Town Hall. Staff Photo/Zack DeLuca

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2019 5:46:01 PM
Modified: 8/16/2019 5:45:50 PM

NORTHFIELD — Hanging on the lobby walls in Northfield Town Hall, a cast stone plaque tells the story of a Northfield native’s heroic exploits during World War I.

The plaque was originally hung in honor of Charles Preston for his service during the war.

Now, nearly a century later, Town Hall Master Planning Committee Chairman Stephen Seredynski has taken notice of Preston’s story.

“He was nominated for the Distinguished Service Medal, but was denied by the secretary of war on a technicality,” Seredynski said. Nearly 100 years later, efforts are underway to award Preston with the medal he was denied.

The plaque states Preston was born in Northfield on July 22, 1878. He died in Brookline on Feb. 17, 1919 from shock, six hours after arriving home from “one of the most daring missions ever undertaken.”

During the height of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Preston was chosen by the war department to travel to Russia and assist the American Red Cross in setting up hospitals. While in Russia, he clandestinely collected $2.5 million worth of platinum for the war department, to be used in the manufacture of explosives to support the war effort.

The plaque describes Preston’s mission as one that “required remarkable business ability, tact (and) unflinching courage,” and one that was “performed at great and constant personal risk and hardship.” Preston also volunteered to serve his duties without pay.

According to Seredynski, Congressman Jim McGovern’s office sent a letter to the Department of Defense to support the request Preston be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously. Over 100 pages of documentation have been submitted.

“I was recently informed that the assistant secretary of the Department of Defense in charge of legislative affairs has requested all supporting documentation for our request,” Seredynski said.

He said he has also reached out to a documentary film company to potentially develop a project about Preston, but he has not heard back yet.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
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