OAKFIELD, Maine — Members of the local American Legion Frank B. Holden Post 52 have been working on revitalizing both the building and membership, as well as planning for a memorial to honor all veterans from the area.
“No work had been done at that post for about 20 years and it was falling down around their ears. I got them excited and we put a lot of work into it,” said Adjutant James Burton. “We put new sills under the building. We did some inside work. We put in a new furnace and a new water pump.”
Burton said donations of money and labor from veterans in town have underwritten the repairs. New windows, he said, will be installed in the spring along with new ceilings in the kitchen and furnace room.
“People are beginning to see what we are doing and that we have taken an interest,” Burton continued. He added that he and fellow members are encouraging other veterans to join the post. “Right now we have 62 members and we are all in our 60s and 80s. Dues are $23.50 a year. And, the ladies are trying to start a ladies’ auxiliary.”
Fellow veterans also receive support from the Legion through services including fuel assistance, Christmas dinner baskets and help with mortgage or electric bills, according to Burton. The town even gets support through clean-up projects.
Until renovations to the Legion building are completed, members are meeting at the Smoki Haulers Snowmobile Club.
The members of Post 52 are also raising funds to erect a veterans memorial and offering residents an opportunity to support the project by buying paving bricks.
“We spent last winter gathering up names of veterans,” Burton said. “We have over 800 names from the Civil War to the present. We’re going to build a veterans war memorial and we kicked it off last spring with an Easter supper to announce what we are doing. To date, we have roughly a little over $10,000 in the fund for the memorial.”
Although a definite location has not been finalized, Burton said that it will be somewhere in the area of Oakfield and Smyrna.
In keeping with the post’s philosophy, he said, “All gave some and some gave all. And, we don’t forget them.”
Among those to be recognized on the memorial will be Lt. Frank B. Holden of Oakfield, for whom the post was named.
Holden died in World War I from combat wounds and pneumonia in France in 1918 just a few months shy of his 24th birthday. According to records of American Legion Post 52 in Oakfield, Holden’s last letter to his mother in October, indicated that he had been assigned to the 57th Infantry Brigade.
Young Holden was born and raised in Oakfield by Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Holden. He attended Ricker Classical Institute and the University of Maine where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity.
When Holden entered the service, it was as a member of the Second Maine Regimental Band where he was promoted to first-class musician. After attending officer training school and earning a commission, Holden was assigned to the 103rd Infantry Brigade prior to his re-assignment to the 57th.
Holden’s regiment came under heavy enemy fire near Verdun when he was wounded. He later died of those wounds and pneumonia, and was buried with his comrades in Flanders Field — a battlefield immortalized in one of the most notable poems written during World War I. That poem, titled “In Flanders Fields,” was written after John McCrae witnessed the death and presided over the funeral of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer.
The name Frank B. Holden rose in Oakfield’s consciousness when returning veterans banded together to ask for an American Legion charter. The charter was granted on Sept. 22, 1919, and the small community chose to name the post after the young soldier who had given his life in service for his country.
For more information about American Legion Frank B. Holden Post 52, contact Burton at 532- 8238.