Vietnam War Monument

Michael A. Dow

The Viet Nam War Memorial dedication was a three day event starting on Saturday May 25, 1985 with the Vietnam War Combat Photography Exhibition held at Kuhn Park in Cape Neddick, Maine. Combat footage shot by Vietnam Veteran Craig Hysler that included a soundtrack of songs popular at the time was also presented. The next day, in the ski lodge on top of Mt. Agamenticus, a Vietnam Veterans Reunion Buffet was held. After the Memorial Day parade on May 27, 1985, services were held and the black granite monument was unveiled and dedicated.

Master of Ceremonies…….Mr. Elton Valentine did the introductions.

Opening prayer……………Reverend David Holroyd

First speaker………………Dennis Hansen shared his thoughts on his friend, Larry d’Entremont.  

Second speaker……………John Parsons spoke about his cousin, Ronnie Parsons.

Third speaker………………Dennis Young spoke about his brother, Bob Young.

Closing Prayer……………..Reverend David Holroyd

21 gun salute……………….Marine Corps League from Kittery.

Taps………………………..George Perkins.

First Parish Church carillon played three tunes: Amazing Grace, Turn, Turn, Turn and Nearer My God to Thee.

The idea for the monument came from Vietnam veteran and York native Ron Nowell and he did the lion’s share of the work. A committee was formed consisting of fellow York Vietnam veterans William Avery, Edward Coite, Brian Chase and Michael Dow, with Ron Nowell as the chair. It was decided that the monument would have an uncomplicated, straight forward design with incised letters and would closely reflect the Vietnam War Memorial, known as “The Wall,” that was dedicated in Washington, DC on November 13, 1982. It was also decided that the area surrounding the monument should be landscaped and kept in that same sparse and reflective way.

The names incised into the black granite stone were spelled the same as they are spelled on The Wall and the spelling was shown to and accepted by all living parents. Unfortunately, it was found later that one of the last names was spelled wrong on the Washington monument and so it was cut with the wrong spelling on the York monument. This error was discovered and commented on by the father of one of the fallen before the stone was placed in the ground and that error had to be corrected. Ron Nowell drove the stone back to Rock of Ages in Vermont, the original manufacturers. There they cut off the face of the monument, re-polished and re-cut all the letters. Ron Nowell paid for this correction out of his own funds. The cut-off pieces of the monuments old face now sits on a granite outcrop on top a hill in York, Maine. This monument was made, erected and dedicated using no public funds.   

A place to locate the monument was found on the South side of York Street, directly across from the stone building that formally housed the York Library and which is now known as the Parish House. At that time, that property was owned by the First Parish Church and permission to locate the monument was asked of the Deacons of that church.  

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A First Parish Congregational Church letter to Ron Nowell dated May 2, 1985 stated the following:                                    

“Mr. Ronald Nowell, Chairman 
 Ad Hoc Vietnam Memorial Com.
 Clay Hill Rd.
 Cape Neddick, ME 03902

Dear Mr. Nowell,

The Assessors of First Parish Congregational Church give their permission for the use of the site staked out on April 25, 1985 for purpose of locating the 5 ½ foot x 38 inch stone memorial depicted in the photograph you circulated.

We also agree to allow placing of the temporary glass enclosure containing the personal effects of the four men on the condition it be removed by Saturday, September 7, 1985. It shall be the responsibility of your committee to assume liability for the articles there in contained, as well as for the safety of the workers and people who visit the memorial as far as hazards that pertain to the two structures are concerned.

It is understood that your group will be responsible for all maintenance or other expenses relating to the memorial and its upkeep, including the grounds immediately adjacent to it.

Of course, I understand that the Committee will exclude the First Parish from any and all claims, including legal expenses, from the maintenance of the memorial.

Please sign the enclosed copy of this agreement and send it to us so that we may have it for our records to avoid misunderstanding.”

Note: The document was never signed.

In the fall and winter of 2007 and spring of 2008, much work was done to the land behind and around the monument to make way for the rebuilding of the historic Remick barn. This will be used as Old York Historic new education, exhibition and visitors center and actually sits right next to the site of the old American Legion Hall. The monument was pulled out of the ground moved approximately 60 feet toward the center of town and its elevation changed. A new stone wall and wider sidewalk was added and the area was given a well-deserved face lift.

In June of 2016 Selectman Todd Frederick noticed the soil around the monument was not producing grass as it was quite poor. He directed the First Parish maintenance crew to come down with their tractor and using its back hoe, the poor soil around the monument was removed and replaced with new top soil. This was seeded and Vietnam veterans Bill Blaisdell and Michael Dow attended to a water sprinkler whose water was provided by their neighbors at Old York Historic until good grass was produced. In 2018, the lawn care company that takes care of the First Parish Cemetery adopted the Vietnam Monument’s lawn.

All war monuments in the Town of York sit on property which is owned by the town.