BRISTOL - Families of World War I veterans pinned sprigs of rosemary to their shirts as a sign of remembrance Monday night while they were surrounded by their relatives’ memorabilia that was donated and displayed at the Memorial Military Museum.
The idea of pinning sprigs of rosemary stemmed from a story between Bristol WWI veteran Frank Chapin and his girlfriend, Rosemary, that Carol Denehy of the military museum told to the local families of veterans that were invited to the reception.
The couple’s story was told through a display of photos and copies of letters Frank sent to Rosemary from overseas that highlighted their relationship and emotions while separated by war.
The display is part of the “Over Here, Over There, Bristol in WWI” exhibit in the museum that is focused on veterans with local family roots. It showcases memorabilia mostly donated by the families, noted Denehy who added that the exhibit will remain up until November of next year.
“We invited the families of the veterans represented in the display, which is about 30 people from a dozen families,” Denehy said. “This is the first time we are having an event like this and it all started with Chapin’s uniform.”
Mike Thomas of the Bristol Historical Society, where the museum is located, explained Chapin’s uniform and the letters he sent home were donated by Scott, Ed and Leigh Fournier.
“When we announced the event, we received a bunch of new WWI memorabilia,” Thomas said. “We didn’t expect all these items. Everything except one item was donated by families from Bristol, Plymouth, Plainville and Southington.”
Inside the exhibit was a navy-green, wooden periscope donated to the museum by Bristol resident Bob Lagasse. The periscope was passed down to him by his father who grew up on a farm in the Chippens Hill area.
“My father brought it [the periscope] back from WWI and he used it to look over trenches. As a kid, I remember asking to play with it,” Lagasse said.
Veteran Ralph Strong’s enlistment papers, discharge papers, dog tags and a few other trinkets were also donated to the exhibit by his wife, Bev Strong, who has been a Bristol resident her entire life.
“My husband was a medic in the war and when I brought his things here, the museum was pleased,” Strong said. “It’s a great event and it deserves a lot of credit. It’s nice to build a connection with other families of WWI veterans.”
Denehy felt the program was one of the top three presented in the last two years because when the families gathered in a semi-circle to share memories, details and stories about the relatives who served, “there was a sense of connecting with each other as we remembered men who are long gone.”
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.