Originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on May 27, 2013
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
This Memorial Day weekend I joined millions ofAmericans in honoring those who are no longer with us, particularly the brave men and women who gave their lives in defense of this great nation.
Having lived in Norton pretty much my entire life, I have been privileged to meet many outstanding local war veterans who were fortunate enough to come home from their distinguished military service. They have been my elders, my teachers, and my friends. They have taught me much about service to my country, service to my community, and perhaps most importantly service to my fellow citizens.
It is only fitting that I take a moment and honor a few of them here today. They would never seek out this recognition, and would probably shun any praise that came their way. But who they are, what they have done and in some cases continue to do is important and servesas an example for each and every one of us.
When I was at Norton High School, one of my favorite teachers was an older gentleman from town named Ralph Rubin. Mr. Rubin taught history among other things, and was the ultimate gentleman. He had a kind and gentle manner, and sometimes seemed a bit out of place with the “cool kids” he was teaching.
But so many of us truly liked and admired him. Partof the reason was the discussions he had with us about his military service. A veteran of WWII, Mr. Rubin was a fixture at local veteran celebrations both in school and during the town ceremonies. He was riveting to us because he always told the same story.
It involved his good friend who died near him on the battlefield. Time has dimmed my memory somewhat, but I seem to recall the soldier’s name was Frank Maroni. So many times I would hear Mr. Rubin tell us the story of Frank Maroni and his heroic exploits, as well as his noble death. The tale was told with emotion and pride, and we never got tired of hearing about it.
Another WWII veteran I have been honored to know for decades is Herb Church. Part of a family with deep roots in Norton, Herb has also often related his personal stories of serving his country. But more than that, he has spent much of his life since then serving and protectingthe memories of local veterans.
Herb has been an integral part of local veteran organizations, and for as long as I can remember has been honoring service men and women. I have watched him march in countless parades proudly wearing his uniform. He is quiet, unassuming, and yet the first one to step up for veteran causes. His recent offer to provide for the Sgt. Trent Memorial Park is yet another example of his selflessness and civic pride.
Last but not least is Al Watson, one of the true backbones of Norton’s proud veteran’s heritage. Tough as nails but with a soft spot for our military personnel, this veteran has made it a part of his life to keep the memories of local service people alive.
For decades he and his fellow veterans have made sure the grave of every veteran has been properly and respectfully marked to honor their service. From flags to ornate metal plaques detailing their military careers, Al Watson and others have made sure none of us will forget the sacrifices of those who have helped make our lives today possible.
You had better not fly an American flag improperly around town anywhere, because Al will see it and has no problem letting you know it needs to be corrected. One of the true local characters making Norton such a unique place to live, his contributions should be appreciated by the entire community.
I’m sure virtually every town has men and women like these local heroes, people who represent the best of their generations and the principles of service to this country. I hope this weekend they and in some cases their memories were honored and remembered.
And I have to wonder if somewhere, the family of Frank Maroni knows that a couple generations of a small Massachusetts town grew up knowing of his brave sacrifice.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.