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July 25, 2013

Middlefield dedicates Veterans Memorial

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — A veterans memorial was dedicated in the town of Middlefield Sunday.

The event was held outside of Old Schoolhouse No. 1, and drew a sizable crowd, filling the area’s parking to capacity.

The Town of Middlefield Historical Association raised about $2,000 for the memorial, which consists of an inscribed black stone. All of the money came from individual donations from local residents. Tied in with the memorial effort is a veterans book, which aims to chronicle every veteran that was ever born or lived part of their lives in Middlefield.

Attending the dedication were American Legion, Clark F. Simmons, Post 579, Cooperstown; American Legion, Whitman-Hull Snyder, Post 1360, Cherry Valley; American Legion, Post 1566, Milford; Veterans of Foreign Wars, Walter P. Eggleston, Post 7128, Cooperstown; Woman’s Auxillary, VFW, Sgt. Walter P. Eggleston, Post 7128, Cooperstown; La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux (40 & 8), Rep. Christopher Gibson, Assemblyman Peter Lopez, and numerous veterans, their families and spectators. There were also vendors, food and music provided by the Small Town Big Band.

The first person to speak at the dedication was former Middlefield Historical Association President Jan Bartow, who explained how the memorial came to be.

The idea originated with Francis Morton, a member of the Middlefield Historical Association. In February 2011 she wrote a letter to her fellow historical association members suggesting that a monument in honor of veterans be erected in Middlefield. The letter also said that she would be willing to make the first donation.

“We told her we’d be glad to (participate),” Bartow said .

Bartow also introduced the three Middlefield WWII veterans attending the ceremony: Andrew Kubis, Douglas Olmstead and Homer Osterhoudt.

Middlefield’s fourth WWII veteran, Claude Wilson, was unable to make it to the event. WWII veterans Howdie Cornish of Milford and Ivan Winner of Oneonta also attended the dedication.

Rep. Christopher Gibson (R-Kinderhook), a veteran himself, gave a short speech praising veterans and noting how special it was to live free.

“We pray for the day that we see war no more,” said  Gibson, expressing hope that the United States might enter a long period of peace after the war in Afghanistan concludes next year.

Gibson presented the WWII veterans with congressional coins, arranging later for the delivery of a coin to Wilson. He also presented the historical association with a certificate from the U.S. House of Representatives honoring the town.

“Patriotism is tied to the ideals,” Assemblyman Lopez said. “We embrace freedom, we embrace mercy, we embrace compassion, that’s who we are as an American people.”

A music minister, he then led those in attendance in a verse of “America The Beautiful.”

“Without the men and women whose names will appear in the memorial book, Middlefield might not be here,”said Otsego County Director of Veteran’s Affairs Jack Henson, USMC (Ret.), who noted that veterans from Middlefield could be traced back as far as the French and Indian War.

The monument was unveiled after Henson’s remarks, having been covered by the poncho worn in WWII by Middlefield resident Rudolph Softworth.

Cherry Valley American Legion Post 1360 dedicated the monument, while the flag ceremony was done by Milford American Legion Post 1566.

The ceremony was completed by a salute from the Cooperstown Combined Posts, a moment of silence, Taps and concluding remarks from the historical association.

“I’m honored to be here today,” said Gibson after the event.

“It’s a privilege,”  Lopez said. “I feel very small next to these people (the veterans).”

“My father, my grandfather, my uncle ... (were) all in the service,” said Alan Christman, a Middlefield veteran himself, who said that this older generation of veterans inspired him to serve. “As far as for this monument, it’s a good thing.”

Christman spent 20 years in the U.S. Army, 11 in the 82nd Airborne Division and retired at the rank of First Sergeant. He has entered the information of his relatives into the veterans book.