Banner time for Hadley veterans: Pennant portraits hung along town streets will honor 82 service members past and present

FILE PHOTOWEB ONLY

FILE PHOTOWEB ONLY FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 11:45 AM

HADLEY — Active service members from Hadley, military veterans who continue to make their homes in town and others who have served the United States from World War I on will be among 82 people whose portraits will be displayed on banners around town beginning Monday.

“It will be a great tribute to all of them,” says Pam Hague, who chairs the Hadley Banner Committee.

On Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Hadley Young Men’s Club, 138 East St., a day before the banners begin being installed along the streets, a ceremony for the families that are sponsoring the displays will be recognized, with Hague expecting 150 or so people in attendance, though Hague said some family sponsors won’t make it due to living out of state.

Activities will include a military presentation, with an American Legion Color Guard, the awarding of Massachusetts Medal of Liberty honors for those killed in action, and recognition of four Gold Star families.

Hague said all the banners will also be on display so people can get a sense for how they will appear. Then, on Monday, volunteers with the Fire and Police departments will be positioning them on utility poles between the American flags that will line the streets, including Route 9 through town center, as well as in North Hadley center and other parts of town. The banners and flags will remain up throughout the summer and into the fall.

There has been a fantastic response to the banner program since it was announced last summer, Hague said, exceeding the 75 banners the committee hoped to display. There is already interest in adding more in coming years, and this year’s families will be asked to renew their commitment so that the banners can be refreshed, as they are expected to fade after months in the elements.

Among the youngest to be recognized on the banners are two residents who are currently in the military: Austin Boisvert, daughter of Shelly and Joseph Boisvert, who is serving in the U.S. Marines; and Tyler Prats, a recent Smith Vocational and Agricultural School graduate who is in the U.S. Army.

The banners also celebrate at least three centenarians: the late Agnes Banash, an Army medical technician from 1943 to 1946 who died at 100 in 2019; and two are still alive, Stanley Fil, who served for 3½ years in the U.S. Army during World War II, and Helen Baj, who did a 2½-year stint in the U.S. Navy during that war.

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Gerry Devine, a member of the Hadley Banner Committee, told the Select Board on Wednesday that the banner program is about honoring people the way they should be, like his uncle Joseph Fitzgibbon, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who died in 2022.

“I think everybody’s going to be awfully proud on Memorial Day as you walk down that road and see all the different banners for the honorable veterans from Hadley,” Devine said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.