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Officials break ceremonial ground on Veteran's Park

Date: 9/5/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — Local and state officials gathered for the official groundbreaking of the renovations to Veteran's Park on Aug. 29, despite the fact the project is already underway.

Snow fences have been erected around trees to protect them and the beds for sidewalks have been dug.

A $1.4 million state grant will add new, wider sidewalks, a new stone circle around the Civil War memorial in the center of the park, new benches, improved lighting and different landscaping that will "open it up," according to Peter Leclerc, recreation supervisor of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Leclerc said the project should be finished in the spring, depending upon the severity of the weather.

Veteran's Park was opened July 4, 1876 with the memorial to the city's Civil War veterans, Leclerc said. Over the years, additional memorials have been added to honor veterans of succeeding conflicts.

The project follows a renovation of Community Field and precedes the creation of a skateboard park at Pulaski Park.

Mayor Alex Morse called the park renovations "an important investment in a very important neighborhood." He noted on one side of the park is the city's new multi-modal transportation center and on the other is the former Holyoke Catholic High School building. Morse said a developer is hoping to break ground next years to transform the former school into market rate housing.

He added other projects next year will be the second phase of the Canal Walk and new signage for the city parks.

Stephanie Cooper, the assistant secretary for Land & Forest Conservation of the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, explained the grant making the renovations possible was part of an effort to build or re-build parks in urban areas, especially in Gateway Cities, such as Holyoke. She said the grant money form the Patrick-Murray Administration has helped 153 parks so far.

Cooper added the grant to Holyoke has been "the biggest and boldest" to any of the Gateway Cities.


During the ceremony, Henry Jennings, the chair of the Soldier's Memorial Commission, noted that three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients have ties with the city and have been honored by it.

"For a city the size of Holyoke, that is really outstanding," he said.

John MacKenzie, who settled in Holyoke and died there in 1933, was a Navy veteran of World War I.

His citation reads, "For extraordinary heroism while serving on board the U.S.S. Remlik, on the morning of 17 December 1917, when the Remlik encountered a heavy gale. During this gale, there was a heavy sea running. The depth charge box on the taffrail aft, containing a Sperry depth charge, was washed overboard, the depth charge itself falling inboard and remaining on deck. MacKenzie, on his own initiative, went aft and sat down on the depth charge, as it was impracticable to carry it to safety until the ship was headed up into the sea. In acting as he did, MacKenzie exposed his life and prevented a serious accident to the ship and probable loss of the ship and the entire crew."

MacKenzie Field was named in his honor.

Raymond Beaudoin, also born in Holyoke, was recognized for his actions during World War II during which he sacrificed his life to save his platoon.

As noted in his citation, "He was leading the 2nd Platoon of Company F over flat, open terrain to Hamelin, Germany, when the enemy went into action with machine guns and automatic weapons, laying down a devastating curtain of fire which pinned his unit to the ground. By rotating men in firing positions he made it possible for his entire platoon to dig in, defying all the while the murderous enemy fire to encourage his men and to distribute ammunition. He then dug in himself at the most advanced position, where he kept up a steady fire, killing six hostile soldiers, and directing his men in inflicting heavy casualties on the numerically superior opposing force. Despite these defensive measures, however, the position of the platoon became more precarious, for the enemy had brought up strong reinforcements and was preparing a counterattack. Three men, sent back at intervals to obtain ammunition and reinforcements, were killed by sniper fire. To relieve his command from the desperate situation, 1st Lt. Beaudoin decided to make a one-man attack on the most damaging enemy sniper nest 90 yards to the right flank, and thereby divert attention from the runner who would attempt to pierce the enemy's barrier of bullets and secure help. Crawling over completely exposed ground, he relentlessly advanced, undeterred by eight rounds of bazooka fire, which threw mud and stones over him or by rifle fire, which ripped his uniform. Ten yards from the enemy position he stood up and charged. At point-blank range he shot and killed two occupants of the nest; a third, who tried to bayonet him, he overpowered and killed with the butt of his carbine; and the fourth adversary was cut down by the platoon's rifle fire as he attempted to flee. He continued his attack by running toward a dugout, but there he was struck and killed by a burst from a machinegun. By his intrepidity, great fighting skill, and supreme devotion to his responsibility for the well-being of his platoon, 1st Lt. Beaudoin single-handedly accomplished a mission that enabled a messenger to secure help which saved the stricken unit and made possible the decisive defeat of the German forces."

The Beaudoin Village housing complex was named in his honor.