By Ron O’Clair
I was pleased to show my support for the item on the Worcester City Council Agenda for the 29th of March 2016 meeting to fund the restoration of the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” that had been taken down in 1959 after having been erected at Belmont and Clayton streets in 1943 by a grateful City of Worcester to honor those members of our community who gave their service to the nation during World War II.
The reason the memorial was taken down was it was in the path of the proposed I-290 Interstate Highway then being built through Worcester. It was a huge project, and there were a lot of land takings, building demolitions and street alterations made to accommodate putting an Interstate Highway through the heart of our city.
Many things were happening during that time of upheaval, and the project was not completed for quite some time from that starting date of 1959. In fact, they were still working on a section of it when the bridge under construction collapsed at College Square in April of 1968. My older brother Donald and I had walked under the bridge to go to the A & P Supermarket located at the Four Corners on Southbridge Street. We walked back under the bridge under construction going back to where our family was living on Caro Street … We had just turned onto College Hill when the bridge behind us came down. We narrowly escaped death.
Apparently, with all of the things happening during that time of upheaval, with the land takings of two public schools, three synagogues, numerous private homes and businesses being torn down and roads being dead-ended, the absence of the memorial to the “colored citizens” went somehow unnoticed and not restored upon completion of the Interstate Highway.
Somehow the City of Worcester never got around to putting the memorial back up in another spot, and no one raised a fuss about it.
As far as I have been able to determine the people who’s names were on that “colored citizens” memorial have not been added to any other monument erected since that one was removed and are not being honored at all today.
That I find highly unacceptable as a fellow Veteran and as a Patriot, as well as a City of Worcester booster. There was an outpouring of support from Veterans and Veterans’ groups at City Council meeting; vets showed up with representatives of all branches of service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines … there might have even been a Coast Guardsman there as well. There were American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars members, Vietnam Veterans, all from the many different nationalities that make up the Veteran lexicon. There were Black, White, Latino, Asian and everything in between! I was pleased to see how much support this movement received! Many people, including me, spoke that night in favor of commissioning a replacement monument in Worcester as a memorial to those “colored citizens” of the City of Worcester who, through accident or design, were relegated to the past as forgotten heroes.
It was not just a “colored citizens” issue, it was a Veteran’s issue. It received an 11-0 vote from the city council in favor of rebuilding …
Thank you to all who participated, thank you to the Woecester City Council for passing the item and, most of all, thank you to those whose names graced the original memorial … for their service and sacrifice made on behalf of all who reside in the great melting pot of races that is the City of Worcester!
Please email Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com with any comments/criticisms.