January 26, 2021

Seeking Relatives of EP Veterans with I-195 Bridge Memorials

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Interstate 195 divides the city of East Providence. The expressway was opened to traffic from the Washington Bridge to the East Shore Expressway/ Wampanoag Trail on December 15, 1959. It was not until August 1960 that this freeway, as we know it today, extended to the RI/ Mass. state border and continued into Mass.
In Dec. 1959, Governor Christopher Del Sesto tasked the new E. Prov. City Council to name the thirteen bridges that crossed the highway "in honor of individual service men and women from East Providence who have sacrificed their lives in World War II or in Korea." A committee was formed and between Dec. 1959-January 1961, the public submitted names of veterans to receive a bridge memorial and submitted suggestions to name the freeway.

The bridge names committee presented their report on July 18, 1961 with the names of 28 veterans and a map with 14 memorial sign locations. Each bridge is named for two men. These pairs are:

Edward Burke, Gilbert Perito,

John McDowell, Frederick Slade,

Edward Pike, Philip McQuade,

Edward Jocelyn, Manuel G. Silva,

Thomas McLynch, Mark Gilbert,

Frank Maciel, John Webb,

Eugene Fontes (has a daughter), Emanuel Gracie Jr. (has a son), John Braga, William

Halton, Joseph Crowley, Daniel Thomas, Gustaf Soderlund, Andrew Martin,

James Garvin, Charles Storm Jr.,

Clifford Jackson, Gordon Reid,

Robert Holtzmann, George P. George,

Robert Leighton and Arthur Lusignan.

The freeway was named as the East Providence Veterans’ Memorial Expressway (EPVME). A double dedication ceremony occurred on Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, 1961. Does anyone have photos to share from this dedication ceremony and/or photos of the bridge memorial signs?

Do you know any of the men listed above or are you a relative?

Do you know any of these veterans' family members? If so, please contact the families to let them know they are invited to the re-dedication ceremony for these memorial signs and the naming of the expressway on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at Pierce Memorial Football Stadium / Pierce Field. Also short biographies will be written about these veterans. Their family and friends are encouraged to share life and military details and photos with Susan to help record and preserve this EP history.

View https://sites.google.com/view/epvmer2021 to learn more about the preparations underway and items and volunteers needed for this special Veterans' Day celebration.

2020 marked the end of WWII 75 years ago (1945) and the beginning of the Korean Conflict 70 years ago (1950). 2021 marks the 60th year since the dedication of the bridge memorials and its name as the EPVME.

Now 60 years later, the bridges along the EPVME have been replaced or fortified. Of the 14 original sets of signs, only 2 pairs exist with single signs at 4 locations. This full set of signs has been missing for over 20 years and forgotten. An effort has been made to restore the missing memorial signs.

To document the efforts of all the citizens of East Providence who served our country in many military events and to keep them from being forgotten, a virtual military service honor roll has been compiled since Oct. 2019. Just as the public was asked to submit a veteran's name for a memorial bridge, the public is asked to submit military information about past and present E. Prov. residents who served in World War II to the present. Submit -"in memory of" or "in honor of" last name, rank, first name, middle name or initial, war or name of the military event served in (or years, country, peace time, active duty, etc. ), branch of service, optional: awards, medals, etc. If a WWII veteran, did this veteran attend EP High School? yes, no, do not know - to EPVME@hotmail.com You will receive a reply to confirm the submission. Submission deadline is Oct. 1, 2021. This military service honor roll is posted on the East Providence Historical Society's website, www.ephist.org.

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