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World War II Pilot Honored in Holliston

by Chris Cain
June 18, 2019

An Honor Cordon of Holliston veterans greeted those attending the memorial service.

Family members of Lt. Burleigh Curtis were joined by friends at the Holliston Baptist Church to honor the ultimate sacrifice this Army Air Corps pilot made almost exactly 75 years ago.

Pastor Scott Foster began the memorial service by greeting the members of Burleigh's family: his sister Madelyn Klose and Madelyn's daughter and son-in-law Cheryl and Charlie Boucher.  Members of the Holliston Select Board joined representatives of the Police and Fire departments, and the American Legion and VFW posts.  How fitting that Burleigh's image seemed to float on the shoulders of all who spoke.

Lt. Curtis died on 13 June 1944 while on a bombing raid behind the German lines in France.  While the remains of his plane were visible, his remains were not immediately recovered.  After decades of work, in December 2018, the Army officially declared him dead and notified his sister that his remains would be returned to the family.

During the service the story of Burleigh's last flight was shared by Charlie Boucher.  Cheryl Boucher read some letters her family had recently received from French citizens from the region where Burleigh crashed.  The letters had a clear message, seventy-five years later the sacrifice made by so many 'strangers' to give France back its freedom is not forgotten.

Madelyn eulogized her brother with touching stories of their family's arrival in Holliston and how their faith and family values kept them going during the Great Depression.  In an earlier Holliston Reporter article, Madelyn shared that she had a 'secret mission' to complete.  During the service she shared that she had completed that mission -- hand delivery of one of Lt. Curtis' dogtags to his 100 year old brother in California.

There was a military component to the service introduced by American Legion Commander, Steve Bradford.  Ron Turcotte, Chaplain of Post #47, presented Madelyn with a Holy Bible with the hope that it would provide her family solace. Anna Damigella played Taps. 

Colonel Brett Conaway of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, representing the Adjutant General, presented Madelyn with the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty.  The Medal was authorized to commemorate all Massachuetts' service personnel who have died in the line of duty.

On display were several photos and artifacts related to Burleigh Curtis' life and service.

Madelyn proudly displays the Medal of Liberty and accompanying citation.  You may also notice she is wearing aviator wings.  These are a replica of the wings her brother gave her when he became an Army Air Corps pilot.

It took 75 years to get to this service and the heartfelt stories, songs, and prayers seemed to make the wait worthwhile. Thank you for your sacrifice, Lt. Burleigh Curtis.  Lt. Curtis will be finally laid to rest on June 25th in Maine.

 

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Comments (1)

It was a beautiful service. Thanks to all those who had a hand in organzing it. Lt. Curtis' sister is an incredible speaker and storyteller.

- John Ratcliffe | 6/18/19 10:27 AM

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