On Sunday, Aug. 12, a dedication ceremony at Frederick Park that is near the Beachmont School was held for Charles Frederick, a Revere native who was killed in the final days of Word War I. Members of the Frederick family, as well as City officials were at the dedication.
The following is the speech that was wriiten by Agnes Haggan, a member of the Frederick family, and was delivered by Marc Silvestri:
“Some decades have passed since that day in the attic. I was searching for a favorite flower vase when I found myself surrounded by old hats, ice skates, furniture, metal trunks, and family memorabilia from years gone by. Then I uncovered a package deep inside the dusty riveted metal trunk. It looked very old and it was so carefully wrapped with ribbons and wrapping paper that it clearly denoted something treasured. It appeared familiar. I’d seen this some years before, but I was too young to recall all the details.
It was a stack of old, tired-looking envelopes; aged with brown edges and paper almost too fragile to the touch. They were addressed to my grandmother. I put them in order of date – the year was 1917.
I was in the uppermost part of our family Victorian home, sitting on the top step of the third floor stairway, just outside the attic door. It was quiet, the sun was streaming in from the skylight above, and a slight musty scent arose from the attic to my right. This was part of our family history and I knew it well.
I gently opened his first letter and caught a whiff…, the scent of time, as I unfolded the sheets of, crisp from age, paper. The letters were hand-written to my grandmother from her son, Charlie, a young Private, during WWI. He wrote about how he missed his family, his hometown, and just those everyday things. And, in one letter he tells him mom about the girl he plans to marry. I must have been there, on that top step, for hours, reading letters and looking at old photographs.
The next set of letters were different…an official looking business size envelope. Like the other letters it had the same aged appearance. But, this was from The War Department. It began, “We regret to inform you…”
I sat there on the steps, now surrounded by an empty box, crinkled wrapping paper, untied scattered ribbons and encircled by old, but very precious letters and photographs. In one hand I was holding the letter from the War Department in the other Charlie’s hand-written letter. Although, I knew his story it still brought tears to my eyes. Holding and touching the paper he held, his handwriting, his script, his thoughts, his plans, as more tears trickled down my cheeks.
Charlie had been in Verdun, France, in October 1918. About a month later he was in the vicinity of the crossing of the River Meuse when he was killed by shellfire on Nov. 4, 1918. Just seven days later on Nov. 11, The Armistice that ended World War I was signed.
There was additional correspondence between my grandmother and the War Department as they worked together to bring her son home. And, on Oct. 10, 1921, almost three years after his death, the War Department fulfilled their promise and his body arrived at South Station Railway, Boston, Mass.
He was referred to as “The Last Soldier.” I’m not sure if the reference was to the Last Soldier to come home to Massachusetts, or Revere, or it was a phrase coined by locals…but, “The Last Soldier” to come home from WWI.
Fast forward about a hundred years to 2017.
It’s downtown Revere, Mass., a rainy, damp, and cold to the bone, Memorial Day Ceremony. As we approached the outdoor event I can see several dark green tented areas for family, military, and local politicians. This was a big event, far larger than I had expected. Several military people were recognized and honored that day. Many of our family members still live in and around Revere. Our entire family wore bright red poppies that day, a long-standing tradition in our family. A tradition that was very important to both my parents.
They had a plaque inscribed with Charlie’s name and I can’t express the immense pride I felt, and I know my family felt too, when we heard the words…
“Will the family of Charles W. Frederick please come forward.
We remain, thankful to The War Department, The Revere VFW, and those who never forgot “The Last Soldier.”