Who’d Have Known?
Death can be a motivator. For the past forty years I had somehow managed to collect a huge pile of photos of local veterans. I’d always planned to do something with the photos—either to make a book or donate them to the Holliston Historical Society. Procrastinator should be my middle name. Oddly, the death of a childhood neighbor, two months older than me and the passing of another friend, Roger Gandini, in the past year made me realize it’s now or never to do something with that huge pile of photos.
A Christmas gift of a book titled Hope Through Community: Words and Images in Response to a Global Pandemic, from a loyal dahlia customer, Ellen Pointek, sealed the deal. I wondered how someone could pull off writing a book in less than a year’s time? That book, to my surprise, was published by Damianos Publishing, a Framingham company located in the old Saxonville Mills. A simple phone call was all it took to grease the wheels of the printing presses. With any luck, my first book—A Holliston Call to Duty—will be available in mid-May. This book shows the efforts of local veterans from the Civil War to the present.
Maybe it’s my Irish Catholic guilt or the idle time from the pandemic that played tricks with my brain. Folks who were to send me a photo for that first book didn’t. Others simply didn’t have enough information about a loved one’s service time. With Mudville neighbor and town historian Joanne Hulbert piling my kitchen table with more information about local veterans than the table could hold, it occurred to me that a second book was in its infancy. One conversation led to another. I made phone calls to research local veterans’ exploits during their military service.
John Bresnahan, who lives on Marshall Street, arrived with photos of his dad, Warren “Presty” Bresnahan, escorting Japanese officials to the Battleship Missouri for the surrender of Japan in August 1945. Jeff Holmes of Union Street told me the story of his dad’s (Henry) ship being hit by a kamikaze and being surrounded by flames below deck. Will Brigham of Prentice Street arrived with a photo of his dad, Lt. William Brigham, who ran a POW camp for German prisoners. Will outdid himself, as he also brought along photos of WWI relative Alden Leland, a local insurance agent, and another relative Richard Blodgett, a Civil War Veteran, who lived at 2 Smith Row and was a member of Holliston’s famed Company B.
A phone call to childhood neighbor Michael Moore of 54 Prospect asking about his relatives the Connollys and the Mullens led to a conversation about war dogs being trained across the street at 55 Prospect Street after WWII ended. A phone call to Evan Kempton at #55 revealed more startling facts: not only were service dogs from the military brought back from the war to receive obedience training, but a book about the training on Prospect Street was produced by the American Kennel Club in 1950, titled Teaching Your Dog Obedience.
And the story doesn’t end there. Robert Moore of South Natick worked at the 55 Prospect Street training facility. Moore, a WWII veteran and holder of a Distinguished Flying Cross, was also a POW, having been held in the same stalag as Holliston’s Lou Paltrineri. Linda Connolly across the street at 54 Prospect caught the eye of Moore, and they were married.
Evan Kempton, whose family moved to the house at 55 Prospect Street in 1950, said that the training facility closed prior to their arrival. It seems the fenced-in acreage was a little more than neighbors could handle, with vicious dogs charging the fence along Prospect Street.
During our conversation, Kempton also revealed that his dad Joe had written a book, Dynamite on the Desk, published in 2018. The book is a true story of Joseph V. T. Kempton’s actual military adventures during WWII. Kempton rose to the rank of Lt. Col. before retiring in 1969.
Who’d have known?