Peace memorial has a history of its own

  • The Orange Peace Statue, erected in 1934, commemorates those who lost their lives in World War I, including 11 men from Orange. Below, its plaque honors local soldiers who died in service. Athol Daily News/DAVID McLELLAN 


  • The Peace Statue at Memorial Park in Orange depicts a soldier returning from World War I, putting his hand on the shoulder of a boy who has one hand holding a book while his other is making a fist. Athol Daily NEws/DAVID McLELLAN

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2018 10:00:05 AM

ORANGE — One of the area’s reminders of “the war to end all wars” is the Orange Peace Statue, also known by the words its maker, Joseph P. Pollia, engraved on its bronze plaque in 1934 — “It shall not be again.” 

Whether “it” has been again is up to personal interpretations — after all, just over two decades later World War II began, claiming double the amount of lives.

In 1918, what we now call World War I ended. Millions had died — at least 37 million, even by conservative estimates — and empires had fallen. As the 100th anniversary of the end of the war approaches, reminders of the bloodshed still stand all across the globe, including locally.

Nonetheless, the Orange statue has become an important monument in town, prominently displayed in the center of Memorial Park. And it’s become an important monument in the state at large, as the official peace statue of Massachusetts.

The bronze statue depicts a uniformed U.S. soldier, having returned from war in Europe, placing his hand on the back of a young boy, who holds a book under one arm and an outstretched fist in the other. The soldier is seated and making eye contact with the boy. The image, although simple, is powerful, and the statue has been mentioned in a great deal of literature about the North Quabbin region.

When it was erected, the statue received national attention and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a letter commemorating the event, according to former U.S. Rep. John Olver, who mentioned the statue before his colleagues on May 13, 2004.

“I rise today to recognize the spirit and civic pride that the town of Orange, Massachusetts and its residents have demonstrated over the past 70 years towards the care and preservation of the bronze Peace Statue,” Olver said, as recorded and preserved by the Government Publishing Office.

“The statue addresses the need for world peace through its inscription,” Olver said. “Seventy years ago today this statue was unveiled as a memorial to the brave men of Orange who gave their lives to protect our country. It has also served as a beautiful reminder that peace is an alternative to war.”

On the statue’s plaque is a woman caressing a shield, a gun and helmet at her feet. On the shield are eleven stars symbolizing the eleven men from Orange who died during the war.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the monument cost $4,300, and was paid for with funds from state reimbursements on soldiers’ bonuses.

Memorial Park is a central destination in Orange. People walk through the park daily, sit on the benches and read the inscriptions on the several monuments, which include an honor roll with the names of those from Orange who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. During Third Thursday celebrations in the summer, musicians play at the park. This year the production team of the show “Castle Rock,” filmed extensively in town, donated $10,000 to Orange for the beautification of its parks and cemeteries.

The Trustees of Soldiers’ Memorials, who take care of the parks and the Peace Statue, rely on donations for normal upkeep. James Cornwell, a trustee, member of the Selectboard and veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said the trustees do an important job for an important statue to the community.

“Being a veteran, I think it’s extremely important,” Cornwell said. “From all generations, we need to make sure to remember the people who put their lives on the line to give us the freedoms we enjoy.”

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