Mayor Leo Fontaine called a press conference on Friday, August 3, 2012 to discuss the controversy over the Place Jolicoeur memorial and new correspondence between the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) who would like the cross atop the monument removed. The conference was held at the Woonsocket Museum of Work and Culture and was attended by Senators, State Police officials, veterans and many of the Woonsocket community.
The meeting began with a video that Mayor Fontaine produced himself. It showed the men at war and clips of the boys who lost their lives. A tear or two amongst the audience were shed.
Mayor Leo Fontaine took the podium to ensure the Town of Woonsocket that this memorial, which has stood in it's place for over 60 years, would not be moved.
Mayor Fontaine said, "The community has come together. Over 1,000 white crosses have been sold to our community members who have placed them on their front lawns for all to see how they support this memorial. It's like a gravestone to the boys who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. We will defend this memorial to the end. None of our tax payer dollars will be used in the defense of this monument."
Attorney Joseph S. Larisa, Jr. and former Mayor of East Providence reassured the audience that no tax payer dollars would be used to defend this memorial. We will continue to defend and protect their monument to honor all veterans and as a memorial to our native sons who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Questions and answers followed. A veteran stood up, Roger Petit who fought in Korea. He let everyone know that in the Bristol, Rhode Island parade there were two floats that were facsimilies of our memorial.
In closing Mayor Fontaine said," I respect anyone's feelings, faith and beliefs. I wish that the person who filed this complaint would call me. I would tell them to speak with the Jolicouer family and to learn about the family. I think it would help change their point of view."
Place Jolicoeur was dedicated by Marshall Foch on November 13, 1921 in memory of William Jolicoeur a World War I Hero. Then on May 30, 1952 the memorial was dedicated in honor of the Gagne Brothers Alexandre, Henri and Louis who all died in World War II. They were the sons of Bernadette Gagne.
A second memorial will be built to honor Mrs. Bernadette Gagne and will be placed close to the one in memory of her family.