BYFIELD — The town’s World War II memorial is officially complete with a new sign, thanks to work over the past four years by a group of residents.
Members of the World War II memorial committee organized a last-minute Veterans Day ceremony Thursday morning after confirming the sign was finished and could be erected this week.
The idea for the memorial first came to life in 1950 when a group of Byfield residents decided to honor the town’s 117 World War II veterans — 110 who returned home and seven who did not.
For many years, the memorial was located at the corner of Central and Church streets, the former site of the United Methodist Church.
After the church closed in 2014, the area became private property, which was developed for condominiums.
In March 2018, a group of residents, led by Fred Davis, proposed moving the memorial to public property.
Last year, the World War II memorial committee rededicated the monument, after moving it and building a walkway in a public park behind the post office at 2 Central St.
Speaking to a crowd of approximately 50 people Thursday, committee volunteer and ceremony organizer Evelyn Noyes said although most of the work was done last year, the committee had still lacked the money to have a sign created and erected to alert people about the memorial.
This year, the committee received $2,450 from the Newburyport Bank Charitable Foundation to move forward with the sign.
Speaking at the ceremony, Tim Felter, senior executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer, said, “There’s no doubt how important our veterans are to our country, and we’re glad to honor them.”
“It is especially moving that from a small town of Byfield that we had 117 men and women step forward, enlist and fight for our country,” Noyes said.
Davis, who chaired the memorial committee, acknowledged the seven people, including his own uncle, who died in the war and were buried overseas, saying he wanted to “let them know that they have a final resting place in Byfield.”
“We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the more than 650,000 American service members who died in battle or the 1.4 million who were wounded,” said Nancy Burke, a longtime volunteer in the community.
“We can, however, recognize and thank the 25 million veterans still living today,” she said.
Select Board member Mike Doyle, who serves as liaison between the board and the Eastern Essex District of Veteran Services, said, “Today’s not only about the veterans that died, but it’s about all veterans. It’s about the sacrifice they made.”
Craig Loth, a U.S. Navy veteran and past commander of Memorial VFW Post 1088 in Kingston, New Hampshire, also shared some remarks and thanked Noyes, Davis and others for their work in the community.
Triton Regional Middle School eighth-grader Nathan Rettkowski read a poem honoring veterans, including his father, grandfather and uncle.
Trumpeter John Anastasio played “God Bless America” and taps.
Ej Ouellette sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.