Hartford Public High School Commemorates Alumni Killed in World War II
November 11, 2010
Hartford Public High School, one of the oldest public schools in the country, practically oozes history.
But among the dinosaur tracks, old portraits and other historical objects is a memorial plaque commemorating one of the more somber periods in the school's history.
The plaque bears the names of 93 Hartford Public High School students who gave their lives for their country in World War II. In all, 2,598 students served during the war.
On Thursday, Veteran's Day, alumni, students and former and current teachers gathered at the school to rededicate the plaque, which was presented to the school by the Class of 1946.
Among them was Justin Maccarone, student council president of the Class of 1946. He recalled the atmosphere at the school as the war played out on the world stage.
"We tried to make the best of things, but inevitably the names trickled back of those who were killed," Maccarone said, remembering how the list grew as the plaque was developed during his years at the school.
Among the names were Seaman 2nd Class William Foley, Class of 1937, who died from his wounds after the sinking of the USS Juneau, made famous by the loss of five Sullivan brothers. There is Bruce Smith, a staff sergeant and member of the Class of 1943 who was killed by a sniper as he crossed a bridge in France shortly after D-Day in 1944. And there is Sgt. Edward Rakauskas, Class of 1935, the first school casualty recorded, in 1945.
The men were featured in a presentation by Art Querido, a retired guidance counselor at the school who began researching the history of the plaque about two years ago after a student asked about it. The student's question inspired Querido to learn more about the plaque, and to restore give names that had been lost during moves between buildings and renovations.
For Querido, who spoke to several dozen students about the school's role in World War II, the goal is to get more students involved in researching the men killed in the war, including Oliver Warring, Class of 1941 and the school's only black casualty. Another name being researched is that of a prisoner of war identified in the school newspaper only as Lt. Gerry, Class of 1939.
"Things like this can help the kids realize they are connected to the history of the school," Querido said.
He said he hopes to develop biographies for all 93 veterans named on the plaque and make them available in the school's library and museum.
Thursday's presentation also included a flag featuring hand-sewn gold stars for each of the 93 dead and the number 2,598, noting all those who served. Hartford Public graduates who volunteer once a month in the school museum discovered the flag several years ago while doing inventory.
"We came across a box of flags and found it and started doing research," said volunteer Denise Risley, Class of 1957.
Dajoun Jones, 17, a Hartford Public history buff, said the thought of 93 graduates being killed in the war was sad, but that he was glad to have the opportunity to learn about them.
"I go here. This is my school and the history of my school is important," Jones said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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