Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Alan Moore, director of the Phoenix Program, stands before the Spaulding High School Centennial Wall of Honor, which he helped to establish to honor Spaulding graduates who have served in the military.
Once a bronze plaque,
now a major memorial
By David Delcore
Alan Moore’s name will never be on the Spaulding High School Centennial Wall of Honor, but his fingerprints are all over the gray granite salute to local veterans that he suggested more than 20 years ago and is preparing to edit for the third time.
It all started with a bronze plaque, according to Moore, who recalled using the gift from the Class of 1922 — the one that bore the names of Spaulding students who went on to serve during World War I — as a teaching tool in his U.S. history class.
The names on the plaque were an ethnic mix of “Barre names,” according to Moore, who said it was as good a way as any to bring the war that didn’t end all wars home to his students.
Moore, who has run Spaulding’s off-campus alternative program for the past 15 years, left the classroom and was serving as assistant principal in the run-up to the school’s 1993 centennial celebration. That, he said, is when “the wall” was born.
Inspired by his memory of the old plaque, Moore said he “naively suggested” putting that idea on steroids by sandblasting the names of all former Spaulding students who served in the military during wartime on the polished granite wall located near the school auditorium.
“I said: ‘We have this beautiful wall, this is Barre, why don’t we see if we can use it as a memorial?” recalled Moore.
And that is precisely what they did, creating the wall that was dedicated on Veterans Day in 1993. Two World War I veterans attended that ceremony, and while both died a short time later, one — John Watson — was awarded the diploma he didn’t quite earn to go along with all of the medals he did.
It was a project, Moore opined at the time, that could happen “only in Barre.” And on Friday, he confirmed, it has been happening ever since.
Twenty years, 2,512 names and two wars later, the twice-edited wall remains a work in progress, according to the man who has long since given up thinking he will ever put a definitive period on a project that has literally become part of his daily routine and a highlight of his 36-year career as an educator.
“I read the obituaries every day,” Moore said. “That’s one of the first things I do and I’m still finding World War II veterans that we missed.”
According to Moore, since John Pelkey volunteered to sandblast the last batch of names that were added to the wall in 2005, he’s discovered 16 more World War II veterans that somehow slipped through the cracks and they’ve got plenty of company.
Many of them are from the Vietnam era, according to Moore, who received a slew of new names after members of the Class of 1960 celebrated their 50th reunion in 2010. Members of the class toured a version of Spaulding that didn’t exist when they graduated from the building that is now home to the Vermont History Center and got a good look at a wall that some noted was incomplete.
It probably always will be.
A student of history, Moore said that reality started to sink in when the Gulf War broke out and was hammered home in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“After 9/11, I said: ‘Common sense tells you this thing is not going to go away,’” he said.
It hasn’t, according to Moore, who said he’s still looking for the names of Spaulding students who were deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 to go along with the others that have trickled in over the past 8 years.
Moore, who has been steadily stockpiling names waiting to reach a critical mass, said he is pretty much there. The count currently stands at 95 names from four different eras. Moore hopes and expects the number will be well in excess of 100 before he has to turn the list he has been working on over to the folks at Lacross Memorials late next month.
“We need to hear from people soon,” said Moore, who can be contacted at email@example.com.
Moore will take it from there, employing the “trust but verify” approach that requires digging out old yearbooks and contacting veterans’ organizations.
As has historically been the case, Moore said there has been no shortage of community support when it comes to a project that encountered a new wrinkle this time.
“We ran out of room,” said Moore, who explained there is no space left on the granite clad wall located on one side of the school corridor, and he didn’t like the idea of sandblasting names on the opposite wall.
“As long as I’m doing this I’d like to keep all the names together,” he said.
Moore briefly flirted with the idea of moving some of the unused panels from one side of the hall to the other, before David Lacroix of Lacross Memorials contacted him and said he would supply and sandblast three new polished panels to extend the wall.
“That’s the interesting thing about this project,” he said. “Every time we get ready to update it, new people come out of the woodwork to help out.”
Lacroix, a Spaulding graduate who serves on the high school’s facilities committee, said he and Jeff Martell of Granite Industries of Vermont were happy to help out.
“It’s really amazing how the people in this community step up,” Moore said.
Although Moore will keep reading obituaries, taking names, and tracking graduates after the latest work on the wall is finished, he said this will likely be the last time he oversees the additions. He’ll turn 59 this summer, and while retirement isn’t just around the corner it isn’t all that far off.
“I know I’m a lot closer to the end than the beginning,” said Moore, who takes some pride in knowing that “the wall” isn’t going anywhere and that it means something to the people and families of Barre.
“It is the history of this community,” he said, noting that history is too often buried in obituaries like the ones he’s been reading lately.
“The stories are incredible,” he said. “You read: ‘This guy was in the first wave at Normandy, and he was there when they liberated Paris and he crossed the Rhine and he was at the concentration camps.’ You read something like that and you say: ‘These people live amongst us and you never even hear their stories.’”
Thanks to Moore and the countless folks who have helped him along the way, you can read their names — at least at Spaulding High School.
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