For years, the town of Falmouth’s only veterans memorial has been in the form of a small plaque bearing the names of six Falmouth High School students, who were drafted into military service between 1941-45 and killed in action during World War II.
That plaque has been a fixture on the lobby walls of three successive Falmouth high schools since 1945, but it is viewed, almost exclusively, by the student body.
Now, one group is hoping to honor all the town’s military veterans with a proper memorial, to be installed in an area where the entire community can come and pay tribute to their service.
For the past two years, a town-appointed Veterans Memorial Committee – comprised of city officials, American Legion Memorial Post 164 members and residents – has been working to research monument designs and appropriate locales to create a permanent display honoring Falmouth veterans from all past wars involving the U.S. military.
According to American Legion member Art Schade, the project was first proposed by committee members and longtime friends Ted Vail, 87, and the late Arthur Frederiksen.
“(Frederiksen) was a very patriotic-minded man,” said Schade. “Before he died, he wanted to put something in place to remember our veterans. They were our parents, grandparents, children and siblings. And, everyone should know about the sacrifices they made for the freedoms we now enjoy.”
Last winter, the committee selected a design featuring an almost 9-foot-tall, polished black granite stone to be inscribed with commemorative verse memorializing the town’s fallen and living military veterans, as well as the insignias of each representing branch of military service.
The memorial plot will include stone benches, decorative paver stones, landscaping, curbing, a flagpole, underground lighting and other aesthetics to enhance the display.
Just to the side of the larger monument will be a smaller memorial stone bearing a replica of the original commemorative plaque hanging at Falmouth High School.
Vail and Frederiksen, both members of the Falmouth High School Class of 1945, were contemporaries of those young soldiers, who included James Iverson, Alfred Morton, Joseph Ribbentrop, George Olmstead and brothers Walter Fortin and Sylvester Fortin.
Vail said the impact of their deaths remains with him nearly 70 years later.
“George Olsmstead was a classmate of ours,” said Vail. “He was just a year older than us and a junior in high school when he was drafted, the summer before his senior year. George died in France just one month after basic training. He never got to graduate high school with us or enjoy what we did.”
“Many people have never seen the plaque at the high school and it’s been moved three times since it was originally installed,” said Vail. “(Frederiksen) and I felt it deserves to be seen in a more prominent place to emphasize the tremendous contributions those young men made in serving their country. They came from a very small school (135 students) and a very small town (fewer than 2,000 residents from 1941 to 1945).”
The place Vail speaks of is a small plot of land that runs along Depot Road. The spot is strategically set between the American Legion Hall, the Falmouth Memorial Library and a network of athletic fields; a locale that is hoped to capitalize on the potential for maximum pedestrian traffic.
“We looked at several potential locations that would have been appropriate to put this monument, including on some highly visible roadways” said Vail. “In the end, we felt the memorial should be located in a place where people could actually stop and read it – a place for reflection.”
According to Veterans Memorial Committee member and chairperson Diane Moore, the committee has about 15 percent of the estimated $55,000 needed to complete the project.
“The cost of the memorial itself is about $20,500,” said Moore. “The remaining funds are needed for the landscaping and other pieces to be installed as part of the project. We also are seeking in-kind donations for manual labor, such as for tree removal, excavation work and other labor that people would be willing to do to help keep the costs of this project down.”
The committee has set a deadline of May 31 for raising the needed funds to complete the installation, since the monuments must be ordered by mid-June.
Committee members are hoping the entire community turns out in support of the project – whether it be a penny drive by local schoolchildren or more substantial contributions from businesses, organizations and community members to complete the project.
Installation work is expected to begin this summer with a dedication ceremony planned for Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Those wishing to support the project should make checks payable to “Falmouth Veterans Memorial Fund” and mail them to the town office at 271 Falmouth Road, Falmouth, ME 04105.
Donations can also be made on the website at www.town.falmouth.me.us.
Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: