East Boston Museum and Historical Society marks Memorial Day with ceremony at Bennington Street Cemetery

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Honoring the first KIA from East Boston in World War I

Remarks by Steve Gingras of the East Boston Museum and Historical Society

Memorial Day 2024
Members of the East Boston Museum and Historical Society lay down 40 American flags, one each for the veterans buried at the Bennington Street Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 24, 2024. (All photographs by Frank Conte for EastBoston.com)

Hello. Thank you for everyone whose come out today to celebrate our veterans and honor East Boston’s fallen service members.

I would like to thank Andrew Biggio for organizing today’s Memorial Day ceremonies, Jeanne Belmonte for her research and the board of the EB Museum for their help organizing this event, and Col. Fife and the EBHS JROTC, who worked hard planting flags in the cemetery

Lastly, I would like to thank our veterans in attendance for your service.

We’re gathered here today at the final resting place of Private 1st Class Alfred Bradford Goodearl, a member of Company E of the 101st Engineers, 26th Division and the first soldier from East Boston killed in World War I.

Alfred Goodearl was born on March 30, 1892 on Putnam Street, one of eight children of George W. Goodearl and his wife Jenny.

He was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in East Boston.

Growing up for a time on Leyden Street, he was a graduate of the Blackinton School, now the site of the Curtis Guild, and later Boston Latin School.

Alfred signed up for the draft in July 1917, resigning his job at a construction company a month later to enlist in the 101st Engineers

He was one of three Goodearl siblings to enlist, alongside his brothers, Capt. John Goodearl and Corp. Edward Goodearl, both of the 46th U.S. Engineers

Newspaper reports say that Private Goodearl “figured in many exciting engagements,.”

Sadly, on July 18, 1918, Private Goodearl was killed by enemy shell fire in battle at Chateau-Thierry in France, becoming the first East Boston boy to die in World War I

The battle of Chateau-Thierry was the Allied response to German attacks during the second battle of the Marne. Private Goodearl would have been killed on the first day of the counter-offensive.

The American victory for which Private Goodearl made the ultimate sacrifice would be the beginning of the Allied advance that culminated in an end to the war 100 days later with victory for the Allies.

However, it would be a long road bring Private Goodearl home.

At the time, it was difficult to bring a fallen soldier back home from overseas, especially with the war still raging.

After the battle, Private Goodearl would have been buried temporarily near the battle site, before being relocated to the American Battle Area Cemetery at Lucy-le-Bocage, Aisne, on October 2nd.

Following the war, he was reburied yet again at the National Cemetery at Belleau Woods, on June 4, 1919

But Private Goodearl’s family wanted to bring him back to East Boston.

On July 19, 1920, State Senator P.F. Tague, a personal friend of the family, wrote to the Secretary of War requesting Private Goodearl’s repatriation, but was told that nothing could be done for several more months

The formal application for repatriation was submitted in April of 1921, and in August Private Goodearl’s remains were shipped by the military to New Jersey, where on September 2, they were returned to Boston by train alongside 25 other fallen soldiers under military escort.

Upon arriving in East Boston, over 3 years after his death in battle, Private Goodearl’s casket lie in state at the headquarters of the Orient Heights Post of the American Legion, attended continually by a full honor guard

On September 5, 1921, his funeral was held at the Orient Heights Methodist-Episcopal Church, which was packed to the doors with family, former ‘buddies’, neighbors, and members of the Legion

Following the funeral there was a procession, including members of the East Boston VFW, the American Legion, and veterans of Private Goodearl’s Company E of the 101st Engineers, to the cemetery, where he was laid to rest here with full military honors.

In August of 1921, 13 squares were named for soldiers from East Boston who fell during WWI. Alfred B. Goodearl Square is located at the intersection of Saratoga, Bayswater, and Thurston streets, directly across from the EB Senior Center. A memorial plaque to his sacrifice remains there to this day.

Several years later, in 1927, his father George applied to the war department for this military headstone.

Now, people may wonder, why are we gathered at the grave of this one private, one of many in our neighborhood to fall in war?

Out of about 40 East Boston boys to die in the Great War, several others were returned to the United States like Private Goodearl, buried in cemeteries around the Boston area. Many others remained in Europe, their eternal resting place the soil they gave their lives to liberate.

But Private Goodearl was the only one to be buried right here in East Boston.

There are also many other veterans buried in this Cemetery, from the Civil War to WWI. There are over 40 veteran-issue tombstones at Bennington Street, and surely countless others who did not request a veteran stone or did not have a stone altogether.

But to our current knowledge, none of these veterans died in war.

Private Goodearl is the only soldier, to our current knowledge, who died in war and rests in East Boston. His grave stands not only as a memorial to him, but to all of his fallen comrades in arms who rest around the region and abroad.

In the years after his burial, Private Goodearl’s grave became the site of annual Memorial Day exercises by the Orient Heights American Legion

Notable speakers included Congressman John Douglass, an East Boston native, in 1925, and ex-Boston mayor Malcolm E. Nichols in 1932.

East Boston scout troops and well wishers would also visit the cemetery to place flags around Memorial Day.

As time went on, and these organizations dwindled, people forgot about these soldiers and their sacrifice, the ceremonies ceased, and people stopped coming to Bennington St. Cemetery

A few years ago, Col. Fife with the JROTC made it his mission to get the city to start maintaining the cemetery better, and began taking the cadets down to begin a new annual tradition of flag planting at the cemetery

Now, today, after possibly decades of hiatus, with the last ceremony on record we could find being 1941, we resume the Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemetery to honor Pvt. Goodearl, as well as all of the soldiers who are buried elsewhere.

Let us observe a moment of silence in their honor.

In the words of Boston Mayor Malcolm E. Nicholls, who spoke at this spot on Memorial Day 92 years ago:

“These heroes who we honor today had the faith, and they willingly laid down their lives in supreme sacrifice that America’s long-cherished traditions might be sustained. Surely we will not falter, nor will we shirk. Rather, as one, let us steadfastly cling and work together for that priceless heritage, which alone is ours–America”.

Throughout planning for this event, there was a lot of discussion about finding the names of veterans who are buried here in this cemetery, as well as the names of fallen soldiers from East Boston who never made it home or are buried elsewhere.

Unfortunately, that is no easy task, and we don’t have all of that information yet. The EB Museum looks forward to working together in the future to compile those lists, so that we may properly remember these service members in future years.

However, today, we have managed to compile a list of most, if not all of of those from East Boston who gave their lives during WWI

Please follow us now to the main pathway, where we will recite their names, and plant a flag in memory of each fallen service member.


World War 1 Honor Roll – East Boston

Pvt. Domenico ABBIENTE

Pvt. William AMERENDA

Pvt. Raffaele BIBO

Pvt. Joe CADILI (Cadhill?)

Pvt. Achillo CAPUTO

Pvt. Michele COUCCO

Lieut. Patrick J. CUMMINGS

Pvt. Angelo DEGREGORIO

Pvt. Albert DOWNING

Pvt. Lewis ESTILLA

Pvt. Michael FERRARA

Pvt. Thomas FITZGIBBON

Lieut. Lawrence J. FLAHERTY

Pvt. Richard W. FREEMAN

Pvt. Alfred B. GOODEARL

Pvt. Carl A. GRANSTROM

Pvt. John J. HAYES

Pvt. Stanley JANOVICZ

Cpl. William C. KELLY

Pvt. Joseph P. KIRK

Pvt. Mathew LEARY

Pvt. John T. McCARTHY

Pvt. Francis A. McDONALD

Cook Alfred John McGurin

Pvt. Charles A. McMASTERS (McNAMARA?)

Pvt. Manuel MENDOZA

Cpl. James F. MOSHER

Pvt. George M. NELSON

Pvt. Jeffery A. O’CONNELL

Pvt. George P. O’DRISCOLL

Pvt. Edward OLSTEIN

Pvt. Tony PALUMBO

Pvt. Frank PAGLIUCA

Sgt. Robert M. RYANS

Cpl. Harry SAMPSON

Pvt. Olaf G. SANDQUIST

Pvt. William SAVAGE

Pvt. Teodato VENTRE

Pvt. James VOCINO

THE ALFRED B. GOODEARL SQUARE

Date unknown. Author unknown.

Yes, call it the ALFRED B. GOODEARL SQUARE

On a sign-post high write the letters down

That all who pass and see it there

May spell out the meaning of his renown.

A       for America and all that he gave

L       for the Loyalty of his brave heart

F       for the Fearlessness displayed–

R       for the Right and Real man’s part

E       for the ENGINEERS – HIS OWN

D       for his Death ‘mid the battle’s roar

B       for Boston – his birthplace and home

G       for the Glory that’s his evermore

O       for the Oath of Allegiance he made

O       for the Others that fought by his side

D       for the Dangers he faced unafraid

E       for the End for which he died

A       for us All and the debt that we owe
R       for the Right that shall triumph again

L       for the Liberty’s torch that shall glow while brave souls like these are feeding the flames

East Boston