WOONSOCKET — William Glatki is 91 now and enjoying his retirement years in Forestdale. But Glatki took the time on Monday to travel over to Oak Hill Cemetery on Rathbun Street with a few friends to help rededicate a special local monument that bears his father's name.
Stephen Glatki is listed at the top of one of the columns of 90 names affixed to a large boulder that once stood at the former U.S. Rubber Company's Alice Mill plant off Fairmount Street honoring plant employees who went off to fight in World War I.
Glatki made it back home from the war, married his wife, Grace, and had a family. William Glatki remembers the elder Glatki as a “great father,'' but also one who didn't talk much about what he experienced during his service in Europe.
“He was in the war in 1917 and I know he was in France in the trenches,” Glatki, who himself served in the Navy during World War II and saw action in the Pacific, said. The family also has a postcard-size photograph of Stephen Glatki in his U.S. Army uniform complete with a holstered .45 caliber pistol and woolen leg wraps above his boots. Beyond that, the story of Glatki's war service is lost to time. “That's all I know,” he said.
Seated next to a blown up copy of his father's old photograph on Monday, Glatki said he was glad someone had made an effort to save the monument bearing his father's name as another tribute to his service.
The ceremony, in fact, capped efforts Elizabeth Vangel, an Oak Hill trustee and director of the Foss Media Center at the historic cemetery, undertook to move the U.S. Rubber Co. World War I monument from Fairmount to Rathbun Street after a massive fire destroyed the old mill in June.
Alice Mill owner Steve Triedman agreed to help Vangel move the 9000-pound monument and its historic plaque to a lawn at the entrance of Oak Hill Cemetery.
Triedman recalled the move as a difficult one to complete but found the monument's new home to be a suitable one when surveying the site during the dedication.
“I think people can appreciate it here,” he said. “It is in a neigborhood where many of the people on monument came from,” he added.
Oak Hill Trustee Norman Jenckes presided over the dedication ceremony and also described the location as providing better access to the monument. “Some of the people here have family ties to this monument and some community ties,” she said later. “Here, it is at a public place that they can come to visit,” she said.
Family members of Omer Michaud, another of the U.S. Rubber Co. employees on the monument, also attended the service to recall Michaud's time in the war.
One of his daughters, Jeannette Duquette, 87, of Slatersville, said her father also didn't speak much about his days in Europe during the war but did have one story to tell her family members at the dedication.
“He was taking his mule for a walk on the last day of the war and he heard bells starting to ring,” Duquette said while remembering her father's story.
“The bells had started ringing because the war was over and when he turned around to see what was going on, the mule kicked him in the back,” she said.
Her sister, Rita Shunney, 83, of Woonsocket, said she only remembers her father a little bit because he had died young at the age of 40 after coming down with an illness. “It's good to see my father's name there,” Shunney said while looking over the monument.
The family members also brought along Omer Michaud's great, great grandson, Elijah Carlson, to see his name on the plaque.
North Smithfield's Adolph Tomaszek, 90, a former supervisor at the Alice Mill, also attended the event and recalled some of the former employees on the monument he remembered as still work at the plant during his time there between 1946 and 1970.
Tomaszek was a Navy pilot aboard the U.S.S. Bismark Sea went it was attacked by two kamikazes off Iwo Jima and sank. Tomaszek was picked up the crew members of the U.S.S. Edmonds after floating in the sea for 3 and 1/2 hours. The experience gave him an appreciation of what many others have had to endure while serving their country and while monuments like the one at the Alice Mill were important reminders of such costs.
“It was always right in front of our office and it was very impressive,” Tomaszek said. “I thought it was nice that the company did that for their employees.”
Roger Petit, who attended the ceremony with Post 11519 Commander Robert Galvin and post member Frank Dubeau, said it was nice to see a group of nearly 50 people showing up for the rededication of a historic local marker.
“This is the result of a group of dedicated people who saw a need and carried it out,” Petit said.
Galvin pointed to the owners of the Alice Mill as taking steps to remember the service of their employees that still have meaning today.
“It was very impressive that because of the plant's longevity in the community there are members of the new generation here to honor them today,” he said.