Woman's Club Plants Memorial Flags Of Tribute
Passersby heading up and down Main Street tooted their horns and waved as a group of mostly red and white outfitted Newtown Woman's Club volunteers carried on a long standing tradition of planting more than 200 American Flags around the base of the "Liberty and Peace" monument — referred to locally as commemorating "Soldiers And Sailors."
The volunteers, led by Pat Bailey, included Colleen Honan, Chris Dran, Jan Happel, Marg Studley, Mary Ann Magee, Millie Anderson, LeReine Frampton, and a smartly dressed dog named "Amazing Grace," sporting a red, white, and blue spangled bandana collar.
Bailey said the Woman's Club adopted the practice of placing the splash of flags ahead of each Memorial Day holiday, which will remain there in tribute until June 14 — Flag Day.
According to late Town Historian Dan Cruson, who was interviewed about the structure in 2018 by Southern Connecticut State University student Victoria Bresnahan, “[With] many war memorials you put a tank on the green and that’s a very militaristic approach to the whole business,” said Cruson, in an interview. “It kind of glorifies the war aspect of it; this [monument] tends to glorify the peace aspect of it.”
In her research, Bresnahan learned and related that the original intention of the Newtown World War I monument was to glorify peace, and was originally named “Liberty and Peace,” according to the monument’s blueprint.
However, its title and the meaning behind it has changed since its erection in 1931. The structure, which is located on a triangular piece of land touching Main Street, and Schoolhouse Hill and Hanover roads, is now more commonly known as the “Soldiers and Sailors” monument.
This is due to the six bronze plaques around it inscribed with the honor rolls of those who served — including the 138 names of the soldiers and sailors active in WWI, Cruson stated in his book Newtown: 1900-1960.
On the website CTMonuments.net, Dave Pelland also focuses on the noble 36-foot high structure, pointing out its three pillars rising from a base dominated by benches.
"A dedication on the west face of the monument’s base reads, “Newtown remembers with grateful prayers and solemn vows her sacred dead [and] her honored living who ventured all unto death that we might live a republic with independence, a nation with union forever, a world with righteousness and peace for all.”
Brave Souls Remembered
Pelland writes that the monument is surrounded by a series of Honor Roll plaques listing local residents who have served in the nation’s wars. The front of the monument features a plaque honoring veterans of the Civil War and the World War, and another plaque lists veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War (in the 1840s), the Spanish-American War, and the Mexican Border War (in 1915-16).
Moving counter-clockwise around the base of the monument, plaques list veterans of the Persian Gulf War (1990-91); Vietnam; Korea; and World War II.
The helmeted allegorical figure atop the monument, representing Peace, stands with a flag, a laurel branch and a chain tucked in her arms. The monument was designed by Franklin L. Naylor, who was also responsible for a war memorial in Jersey City, N.J.
Bresnahan related that Cruson attempted to change the name back to its original, “Liberty and Peace,” through his writings since he discovered the information on the monument’s blueprint.
“The memorial was originally meant to be called the ‘Liberty and Peace Monument,’" stated Cruson in a 2004 Rooster’s Crow, the Newtown Historical Society’s newsletter, “a much less militant moniker than the ‘Soldiers and Sailors Monument.’"
By any description, the monument is a fitting local tribute to those brave sons and daughters who "gave all" in the name of their beloved country and community. And for a couple of weeks each year, thanks to the Woman's Club's dedicated members, it becomes an even more patriotic symbol thanks to their perennial assemblage.