RICHMOND — The shouts of summer campers filtered in from outside as Timothy L. Francis spoke about
service and sacrifice.
The Navy reservist and military historian was addressing a few dozen people in a lakeside lodge at Richmond’s Camp Takodah. They’d gathered to remember 12 individuals who had attended Camp Takodah as boys and died in World War II as young men.
Francis said he has felt most connected to previous generations of service members amid the hardships and dangers of deployment.
“And as a historian, it was those moments — in the middle of the night, somewhere in Iraq, or on a ship in the middle of the ocean — that I would feel part of the great chain of past soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who’ve come before,” he said.
One of the 12 former campers being honored was Frederick Allen Stearns, Francis’ uncle.
Stearns served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Taken prisoner by Japanese forces, he was executed, illegally, in August 1945 after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Francis and J. Graeme Noseworthy — a Leominster, Mass., resident and vice president of the Takodah YMCA — have been researching the lives of the 12 men for months. They have published the results on the Camp Takodah website, telling the story of each “lost Takodian.”
Those who came to the Saturday morning ceremony, in the camp’s Memorial Lodge, included relatives of the men — like Liz Furlong of New Boston, niece of Phillip Douglas Parady.
“I think I learned more from Graeme’s writing than anything,” Furlong said, holding Parady’s Purple Heart.
Parady, of Keene, enlisted in the Navy in 1941. He was killed in action in 1943 while serving on the USS Pompano, a submarine that likely went down off the coast of Japan.
Parady’s family was heartbroken. His mother, Dorothy, thought of his girlfriend — Frances Paula Kelly, known as “Puggy.” Before deploying, Parady had told his mother he planned to marry her. So Dorothy bought an engagement ring. She gave it to Puggy as she broke the tragic news.
On Saturday, as Furlong told her uncle’s story, Jaffrey resident Kelly Taaffe walked up, wearing a Camp Takodah shirt. He and Furlong go way back, having grown up in the same neighborhood.
And they share a piece of family history: Taaffe is Puggy’s son.
The ceremony connected past and present. Several N.H. Army National Guard members marched in with the New Hampshire and U.S. flags. A National Guard chaplain read a prayer.
At one point Noseworthy stood before a table with old china and silverware some of the 12 boys might have used at Camp Takodah in the 1930s — plus a cup that’s used today at the camp’s dining hall. “It’s been used by some of those boys that are out there right now,” Noseworthy said.
Francis explained the symbolic significance of other items on the table, part of a Navy ritual that celebrates missing and fallen shipmates. “On this table sits a red rose to signify the blood our fallen shipmates have shed,” he said. “A mug of water to quench their thirst for freedom. Salt to remind us of the pain they feel — lest we forget it. Lemon to remind us of the bitter tears shed by their families.”
Francis and Noseworthy then read the 12 men’s names: William T. Burrows Jr., Thomas A. Eaton, Chester L. Kingsbury Jr., Raymond M. Krepps Jr., Robert D. Lancey, Leonard A. Merrill, Gale P. Newell, Phillip D. Parady, Lawrence A. Robinson, Robert H. Slade, Frederick A. Stearns, George F. Toomey.
The ceremony ended with a National Guardsman playing taps on a bugle, facing out to the lake.
Jennifer Reily, a Keene native who now lives in Colorado Springs but traveled here for the ceremony, said the research helped her learn about her uncle George Frederick Toomey.
Toomey, of Keene, was a Navy radioman serving on the USS Underhill, a destroyer escort. The ship sank in July 1945, hit by a torpedo from a Japanese sub. Toomey was one of 113 who died on the ship that day, nearly half the crew.
Until recently, just about all Reily knew was that Toomey died at sea in World War II. Now she said she knows a lot more, including that Toomey liked bicycles and physics and had a girlfriend who made him smile.
“I wish I’d known my uncle,” she said. “He looked pretty cool. He looked like a troublemaker.”
She expressed gratitude for Noseworthy and Francis’ efforts.
“They really gave our relatives life.”
The 12 men’s stories are available online at camptakodah.org/about/history/memorial-lodge/lost-takodians-world-war-ii/