2012-11-08 / Front Page

From Pepperell’s past

World War II honor roll a new fixture in downtown Biddeford
By Molly Lovell-Keely Managing Editor


The names of more than 200 Pepperell Mill workers who fought in World War II are on a plaque that was affixed to mill building No. 36 Sunday. There will be a re-dedication of the plaque, which dates back to the 1940s, Sunday, Nov. 11. (Brian Keely photo) The names of more than 200 Pepperell Mill workers who fought in World War II are on a plaque that was affixed to mill building No. 36 Sunday. There will be a re-dedication of the plaque, which dates back to the 1940s, Sunday, Nov. 11. (Brian Keely photo) BIDDEFORD – An important piece of Biddeford’s history has been recovered and will be rededicated this weekend during the city’s Veterans Day events.

The World War II honor roll that dates back to the 1940s contains the names of Pepperell Mill Campus workers who went to war and is now affixed to the brick wall adjacent to 100 Main St., near the entrance to the Biddeford Mills Museum space.

George “Pete” Lamontagne, who worked in the mills for 40 years and is a member of the board of directors of Biddeford Mills Museum, said the plaque used to hang at Pepperell Hall, which is now 180 Main St. Eventually it was moved to the Spencer Building, No. 9, behind the Courier office on York Street.

When he found it this year, Lamontagne said it was on a pallet, partly under water, and hadn’t been cleaned in 65 years.

He said it took 41 hours to clean the 365-pound plaque with dish detergent, non-abrasive wax and a toothbrush. Lamontagne said it should probably be waxed three to four times a year to keep it looking nice.

Jeff Cabral, vice president of Biddeford Mills Museum and director of McArthur Library, said Pepperell issued a World War II tribute book that listed the names of all the employees in military service at the five Pepperell plants in Lindale, Ga., Fall River, Mass., Lewiston, Biddeford and Opelika, Ala. The book was distributed prior to Armistice Day in 1946 and it is believed the plaques were produced at the same time.

On Biddeford’s plaques, there are 286 names; stars next to names mean the person was killed in action.

A proclamation was scheduled to be ready at a city council meeting Thursday, Nov. 8, commemorating the military service of the Pepperell employees who served in World War II.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in the parking lot next to 100 Main St., there will be a re-dedication ceremony that will last about 30 minutes and begin with a prayer by Chaplain Red Soucy. Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant will read the proclamation, followed by performances from Biddeford Middle School and Biddeford High School choral students.

Rene Gobeil, whose name is on the plaque, will unveil the honor roll. Lamontagne said it will be covered by a Vellux blanket, a product that was produced at the mills.

“It will be very special,” Lamontagne said.

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