VIDEO: Duo Begins Vigil At Woonsocket War Memorial

Friends spending days at site to show support for keeping monument intact.


Tom Poole of Woonsocket and Barbara Dardeen of Warwick are spending days at the World War I memorial sporting a cross a national activist group says has to go.

The memorial at Fire Department Headquarters on Cumberland Street, once painted gray, is now speckled with gray flakes of paint. Left to the elements another few years, the cross might leave the memorial without outside help. The base of the cross at the top of the memorial, opposite the plaque, is crumbling. The plaque reads it was dedicated to the memory of William Jolicoueur in 1921. It was dedicated again in 1952 to the Gagne brothers: Alexandre, Henri and Louis. 

Once, Poole said, the memorial was part of a median strip before the road through the city was rerouted.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has asked the city to remove the cross and to remove an image and prayer from the Fire Department's website, citing their religious nature.

The cross, at least, won't be going anywhere if Poole and Dardeen have anything to say about it. "We'll both spend as much time out here as we need to, to make sure that the monument stays put," Dardeen said.

"If they're going to move it, number one will it even withstand a move?" Dardeen asked. Secondly, she said, who will pay to move it?

Poole, a disabled veteran, said he read about the FFRF's letter asking the city to remove the cross, and the web images at 2 p.m. Tuesday. He was at the site in front of at 5 Cumberland Hill Road by 2:30 p.m. He was back again Wednesday, this time with Dardeen, who had the day off.

Poole's motorcycle was parked in front of the memorial, next to two folding chairs the pair sat in and a large US flag flapping in a modest breeze. Poole's radio was tuned to a talk show - the subject of the day a discussion of the challenge to the memorial's cross. People have been stopping by to visit the friends all day long and the firefighters have been very supportive, Poole said.

Joe Gamache, a vice president for the Vietnam Veterans of America James Michael Ray Memorial Chapter 818, finds the situation incredible. "It's just unreal, you know? Unbelievable," he said while visiting Poole and Dardeen.

Many local veterans are upset about the demand to remove the Latin cross from the memorial. Gamache said he hopes they make their views heard. "I just hope they rise up and band together on this," he said.

Doc May 28, 2012 at 06:06 AM
I agree that these types of threats by the FFRF are a waste of time. Too bad their resources aren't used elsewhere such as helping the poor. The first amendment when the constitution first came out was never intended to block local communities from supporting, frankly back then, the country was so new, no one really was worried about dribble and nonsense as this community liked this and this community preferred this. Our federal government has gotten too big and to intrusive.
Doc May 28, 2012 at 06:09 AM
It was intended to stop the Federal government from establishing a national religion. I don't see how a local community's war monument should make such a difference to you folks who call yourself so enlightened which I don't think you are. The insults you throw at people of a belief is somewhat incredulous, but I guess quoting one of your own above "your thick skulls" never got the notion of tolerance as what was the main idea of the first amendment to let it sink in. You folks are the one who like the Desiderata who are creating "noise and haste" on items that are historical and meaningful to the people of the community. The constitution also was created so that the wishes of the few didn’t always outweigh the wishes of the many.
Doc May 28, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
Doc May 28, 2012 at 06:11 AM
....But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have the right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Doc May 28, 2012 at 06:14 AM
I pray for and wish for peace for all. It does seem you folks who are non-religious want to turn folks who have a faith in something more into half citizens...that they cannot vote and act on their beliefs, but you can act on your ideology of non-belief? That's not justice either. I frankly see most of you as forms of smart-asses and probably not that intelligent, certainly not to the level of genius which somehow you equate yourself because you don't have a belief. but hey I'm an imperfect person of belief and readily acknowledge it. I'm sure one of you smarter than thou and wiser than thou atheists (which I doubt wholeheartedly and completely) will try to jump on that...frankly I'm unimpressed. This country was founded on tolerance and religious liberty. Your intolerance shows your bigotry. In the beginning local communities were allowed to show their support for a faith. Now you try to re-write history and say they weren't? ironically sad. I never hear an atheist with any form of humility...then they have the gall to perceive humility as weakness.


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