NEW BRI­TAIN MARKS ‘AR­MISTICE AT 100’

Hartford Courant - - Connecticut - City joins with vet­er­ans groups to honor those who served in World War I By Don Sta­com dsta­com@courant.com

NEW BRI­TAIN – When Cpl. J. Robert Con­roy re­turned to New Bri­tain at the end of World War I, he had two mis­sions: Help­ing sol­diers who had suf­fered, and spread­ing the word of Stubby, the dog that saved Amer­i­can troops and French civil­ians.

“My grand­fa­ther never spoke about him­self in the war, never. But he made it clear the war was hor­rific, and that he never would have made it through with­out Stubby,” said Curt Deane, his grand­son.

Like sev­eral mil­lion Amer­i­cans who fought in The Great War, Con­roy came back to re­sume civil­ian life — in his case, that meant a ca­reer with the FBI. But more than 116,000 lost their lives, in­clud­ing 123 from New Bri­tain.

This week­end, the city will join with vet­er­ans groups to honor those who served — and es­pe­cially those who didn’t re­turn. Sun­day is pre­cisely 100 years since the war ended with the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice, and the city is host­ing cer­e­monies and gath­er­ings with an “Ar­mistice at 100” theme.

“To me, this week­end’s re­mem­brance is about our city, about its cit­i­zens and vet­er­ans, its schools and in­dus­try, and the cul­tures — all of whom are rep­re­sented in some way by our mon­u­ment to this war,” said Thomas Hig­gins Jr., pres­i­dent of the New Bri­tain Vet­er­ans Coun­cil.

“New Bri­tain re­mem­bers and honors her vet­er­ans,” said Den­nis Tar­i­cani, com­man­der of the Hard­ware City chap­ter of the DAV. “Ar­mistice Day, which is now Vet­er­ans Day, started 100 years ago – the end of The Great War, the war to end all wars.”

The city and vet­er­ans are host­ing a ser­vice Sun­day at 10:30 a.m. at the WWI me­mo­rial at Wal­nut Hill Park.

Vet­er­ans will ring bells for the 123 New Bri­tain sol­diers and sailors who died in the war. Mayor Erin Ste­wart, Brig. Gen­eral Ralph He­den­berg III of the Con­necti­cut Na­tional Guard, and lo­cal vet­er­ans com­mis­sion mem­ber John Buck­ley.

Seven l ocal vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tions will place wreaths and the New Bri­tain High School’s band will play Taps.

On Satur­day, the vet­er­ans coun­cil will hold a mil­i­tary-style dress ball and re­mem­brance din­ner at 5:30 p.m. at VFW Post 511. Af­ter Sun­day’s cer­e­mony, Elks Lodge 957 will host a lun­cheon.

De­scen­dants of sev­eral New Bri­tain WWI vet­er­ans will be at­tend­ing the week­end ac­tiv­i­ties, some com­ing from out of state, Hig­gins said. Deane plans to be among them, he said.

Deane works to keep alive the mem­ory of Stubby, a stray puppy in New Haven who be­came fa­mous as the na­tion’s first war dog.

Con­roy adopted Stubby dur­ing mil­i­tary train­ing in New Haven, and brought the dog along when the 102nd In­fantry Reg­i­ment was sent over­seas.

Stubby has be­come the sub­ject of books and a movie for his role as the 102nd’s mas­cot. Vet­er­ans of the time cred­ited him with bark­ing to alert the unit when en­emy shelling be­gan or just as poi­son gas was be­ing de­ployed. Sol­diers in Con­roy’s unit came to rely on Stubby, and he be­came a ca­nine celebrity af­ter the war.

“Stubby spent a tremen­dous amount of time in the trenches, and he was wounded. When my grand­fa­ther talked about the war, it was al­ways through the eyes of the dog — he kept telling me about all the things Stubby did for his unit,” Deane said. “He was the first ther­apy dog. My grand­fa­ther said the guys would look for­ward to hold­ing him, talk­ing to him, pet­ting him.”

Con­roy even­tu­ally set­tled in Florida and, af­ter his ca­reer, cre­ated the Carry On Club, a so­cial and sup­port group for vet­er­ans of the 102nd. Deane said his grand­fa­ther pressed for Viet­nam War vet­er­ans to re­ceive the sort of home­com­ing and fol­low-up care that WWI vet­er­ans didn’t get.

“He didn’t want Viet­nam vet­er­ans to suf­fer t he in­dig­ni­ties. Some of the World War 1 vet­er­ans came back with shell shock — be­fore it was called PTSD — and peo­ple just didn’t un­der­stand it,” Deane said. “It was very hard for them to get em­ploy­ment.”

PA­TRICK RAYCRAFT/HARTFORD COURANT

Curt Deane, of Lyme, is the grand­son of Cpl. J. Robert Con­roy. Con­roy, who grew up in New Bri­tain, served in the 124th In­fantry in the U.S. Army in World War I. Con­roy gained no­to­ri­ety as the han­dler of Sgt. Stubby. The dog has been called the most dec­o­rated ca­nine of the war while serv­ing as an Army mas­cot in the trenches in France.

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