This Memorial Day held special meaning for many of Bancroft’s Upper School history students.
The story began in January, when the Worcester Telegram & Gazette ran this article about Worcester State University history instructor Linda Hixon’s plan to honor Worcester veterans who gave their lives in World War I. Hixon was seeking the public’s help to research and write biographies of every soldier whose name is inscribed on the wall of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium.
Gail Buckley’s 10th grade World History II Honors class stepped forward and answered the call.
Each student used primary source documents including military records, grave memorials, and websites such as ancestry.com, to research a soldier listed on the wall. For one student, Gaia K., it was a much more personal story — her great-great-grandfather, Henry Rockwood Knight, is listed on the wall.
For another sophomore, Sam B., the genealogical research project tapped into an area of deep interest. Sam had already researched and written bios for two soldiers when he learned that Hixon still had a dozen or so soldiers left on the list who had not yet been researched. So, he asked Mrs. Buckley if he could do more soldiers. “I feel very passionately that these soldiers need to be remembered,” he said. “I felt like I should spend some of my weekend working on these, especially since Memorial Day is coming up.” Mrs. Buckley not only agreed; she gave him extra credit. “Sam took it upon himself to do extra work on his own to honor these soldiers, and he should be recognized for it,” she says.
Last week the students were invited to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Memorial Auditorium, which has been closed to the public for nearly 20 years. As shown in the photographs, they were able to actually see the wall with the names of their soldiers, take etchings of the names, and witness the famous murals created by artist Leon Kroll.
Reflecting on the entire project, Buckley said, “It was a wonderful way for the students to practice the methods that real historians use, poring over real records, and comparing and checking facts to create an accurate view of history. It was also a wonderful way to honor and remember those from Worcester who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”
With the help of this class of Bancroft history students, the heroes from Worcester’s almost-forgotten World War I past will be known to future generations. Worcester State University will be publishing the biographies in a book this fall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.