In the middle of the last century if you headed east on Lagoon Pond Road from the Five Corners intersection you would have seen much as you would today, a large expanse of giant cattails on your right. Just beyond this was (and still is) a small tidal pond across from Maciel Marine which marked the easternmost boundary of a large marshy area then known as Cat Hollow.

Cat Hollow was a jungle-like playground for local youth having little value for much of anything until in 1953 a group of veterans from the George W. Goethals American Legion Post in Vineyard Haven proposed placing a war veterans memorial park there. While the towns approved of the plan, they were slow to act on the suggestion.

The Legion members formed a committee to further their plan. Some notable Vineyarders serving then included William M. Honey as treasurer and George Rice as clerk. They were joined by Arthur Dickson, Joseph Campbell, James Dolby Jr., Clifford Dugan, Manuel Figueiredo, Lloyd Marchant, Lloyd Mayhew, Theophilus Silva and Frederick Thifault. This group incorporated and purchased some 10 plots of the Cat Hollow area, and by autumn of 1953 had greatly improved the roughly 10 acres by landscaping, raising grade and laying out an athletic field — where the first football games on the Island would be played.

As an article in the Gazette from Nov. 6, 1953 noted: “Men and boys from every Island town have worked on this project, or given material, money or the use of machinery, and thus an all-Island proprietorship in the park has been established
. . . It is of unusual interest to note that this park is privately owned, the Legion committee holding the title, and that to date not a cent from public funds has been spent in its development.”

A week after the article appeared outlining the plan to officially dedicate the park on Armistice Day, an event took place following a parade from the Legion Hall to the newly named War Veterans Memorial Park. After comments from Remo Fullin (Legion commander), and Robert Hughes (VFW commander), there was a moment of silence and then a dedication took place of the 24 Norway maple trees and the corresponding plaques placed beneath each tree honoring the war dead.

And here our mystery begins. In July, while out for a run, I stopped at the park for water and a chance to stretch in the shade of one of the maples and noticed one of the plaques nearly covered by grass. I vaguely remembered the plaques from my days playing softball in the fast pitch league of the late 1970s. I moved to the next tree and found another plaque in a similar state, and then six more. Later that day, returning with tools, I uncovered a total of eight plaques. Through my friend Peter Herrmann, an Island veteran, I contacted Jo Ann Murphy, Veteran’s Agent for Dukes County. Jo Ann began looking into old records and at the Gazette where the 1953 article was discovered. The article included the names of the 24 men to be honored: Arthur Andrews, George Belain, Edmund J. Berube, Douglas Brown, Harold Canter (spelled Cantor on his plaque), Carl Carlson, Adelbert Colby, Edward Constantino, Robert Cromwell, Manuel Enos, Richard Francis, Robert Gilkes, Lester E. Healy, Walter E. Hermaneau, John D. Kelley, Walter Rheno, Morris Shapiro, Donald S. Swift, John A. Silva, John P. Silva, Thomas Silva, Milton S. Silvia, Richard R. Thompson and Percy G. Tilton. Allan G. Kenniston was not included as a name in the article.

As mentioned earlier I only found eight plaques at the Park. Jo Ann Murphy discovered four more at the Legion Hall, one of them naming Celestino A. Oliver, also not listed amongst the 24 honorees. Curiously, some plaques showed dates of death in non-war years — Cromwell, 1924; Tilton, 1929; Kenniston, 1955; Oliver, 1957. So at least two plaques were created after the 1953 dedication.

I returned to the park but even after digging around the base of the few trees lacking plaques I located no evidence of them. There are also only a dozen maples in the park that appear to have been part of the original plantings.

In 1964 the park was turned over to the town and a large boulder was placed at the edge of it with a bronze plaque noting the re-dedication. However, it has no mention of those men listed above. I would like to see the plaques that have been discovered set at the base of the several trees where they might have once sat. Perhaps, too, another boulder or other marker could be placed near the original stone listing the Vineyard veterans who fought in, some dying in, America’s wars through the Korean Conflict.

I wonder, though, where are the missing plaques? And what became of the other 12 Norway maples that were supposed to be planted?


This article has been edited to reflect the corrrect spelling of Arthur Dickson's name.