‘Definitely not forgotten’: Eight Medal of Liberty recipients honored in Hampshire County


Staff Writer

Published: 05-29-2023 3:11 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On July 23, 1944, William Adams, a U.S. Army private from Northampton, was killed by a German artillery shell as his unit pushed against German forces south of Sainteny, France. Adams left behind his wife, daughter Pearl, three brothers and three sisters.

At the Memorial Day ceremony at Park Street Cemetery in Florence on Monday, nearly 79 years after her father’s death, Pearl Judd received a Massachusetts Medal of Liberty for Adams’ sacrifice.

“It’s just absolutely indescribable and so overwhelming,” Judd said a few minutes after the conclusion of the ceremony at which she was presented the medallion and citation signed by Gov. Maura Healey.

“I feel now that he is very definitely not forgotten,” Judd said. “It means so much. It’s so incredible.”

The recognition for the father she never knew, and who may have only met her one time, caps an emotional time for Judd. Over the last three to four months, Judd said she has learned more about the father whose death made her feel like a lost soul. In April, Judd spent two weeks in Normandy, seeing her father’s grave at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach. 

Adams, who immigrated to the United States in 1930 from Northern Ireland, worked at the Northampton State Hospital and Smith College.

“I’m slowly starting to feel like I know him” Judd said, adding that she will have a display inside her North Hatfield home for the heart-shaped medallion, with a gold star in the middle, that will be placed alongside the Purple Heart and C0mbat Infantryman Badge and the American flag that was placed across his grave. 

Adams was one of three Medal of Liberty recipients for Northampton veterans and among eight that Central Hampshire Veterans secured for those who lost their lives serving the country. Others recognized included an Amherst resident, three Williamsburg residents and a Chesterfield resident.

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In Nothampton, the others honored were Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Bernard Paul Laflam, who died April 20, 1944 while on an escort mission in the Mediterranean, one of 47 members of the Lansdale ship who was killed in an attack by German Luftwaffe dive bombers, and Staff Sergeant Alfred Henry “Ted” Conz, who died on Aug. 22, 1943 while serving as the radio operator/gunner of a B-26 on a bombing mission of Salerno, Italy, was attacked by German fighters and crashed.

The honor for Conz was appreciated by his two surviving nephews.

“It’s an honor to receive this medal on my uncle’s behalf,” said Greg Conz, observing that his son is also named Ted so as to carry on the family name.

Over the weekend, Conz said his family watched home movies recorded 83 years ago that bring their uncle to life. “Thank you for this opportunity and thank you for remembering,” Conz said.

The ceremony came after the 155th consecutive Memorial Day parade, believed to be the longest continuous running parade for Memorial Day in the United States.

“We and you made this possible,” said Tom Pease, president of the Northampton Veterans Council and commander of the VFW Post 8006. “No one in this country has done that on Memorial Day. Applaud yourself, we’ve all made it happen.”

The parade stepped off from Trinity Row Park for the short journey to the cemetery, with many spectators setting up chairs in shaded grassy spots, some holding American flags and dressed in patriotic hats and shirts, with downtown Florence buildings decorated in red, white and blue bunting and flags planted along the sidewalks.

Waving from a convertible was the grand marshal of the parade, Edwin Nartowicz, who was drafted into the U.S. Army December 1941 and 3½ years later was honorably discharged, after serving in Northern Africa, Italy and Sicily and participating in The Battle of Monte Cassino, where 3,000 service members died. 

Nartowicz was honored a few months before turning 100. “It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, to be part of the veterans who are living and the veterans who have died,” said Nartowicz, a Northampton resident for the past 65 years.

Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra read a proclamation reflecting on the 91 Northampton residents who died in the Civil War, and Ryleigh Pease read General John A. Logan’s orders calling for a remembrance day for the Civil War dead, as Girl Scouts placed flowers at the graves of veterans buried in the cemetery.

The JFKeys, the a cappella group at JFK Middle School, sang the national anthem and the Northampton High School Wind Ensemble played various selections, including a rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Veterans Council Chaplain Carl Growhoski and Sciarra placed a ceremonial wreath.

Vietnam War veteran Joseph G. Farrick Sr. read a poem titled “Colors” that describes the American flag’s red as symbolizing anguish and bloodshed, the white the lost innocence and purity of honor and the blue the heavens above and the depth of the ocean below.

“Only the chosen few know of the highs and the lows,” Farrick said. “Freedom is not free.”

Veterans Agent Steve Connor read a roll call of veterans who died since last Memorial Day. “Remember the names and we remember them,” Connor said.

Two late veterans, Nicholas Grimaldi, who was involved with the Veterans Council of Northampton and helped to organize the Florence Memorial Day parades and Veterans Day services and breakfasts, and Gerald Clark, the veterans agent for Hatfield who also was a member the Veterans Council, were cited by Growhoski in his closing benediction.

The remaining Medal of Liberty recipients were honored at ceremonies and events in other communities.

In Amherst, the award went to Staff Sgt. Harry Francis Sherman, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps who died on July 7, 1944 when the B-17 Flying Fortress he was in, bombing oil plants in Merseburg, Germany, crashed into another B-17 over Holland.

In Williamsburg, the awards went to Private First Class Gerald Edward Larkin, who died on Dec. 8, 1943 in combat against German forces near the village San Pietro Infine; Private Francis James O’Brien, who died on July 10, 1944 while engaged in combat against the German 902nd Panzergrenadier Regiment near the village of Belle-Lande; and Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Arthur Joseph Litchfield, who died May 2, 1945 in a prisoner of war camp due to complications of malaria and beriberi.

In Chesterfield, the medal went to Technical Sgt. Raymond Howard Stone, who died Sept. 13, 1944 when his aircraft and two others were struck by anti-aircraft fire and destroyed.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>