City of New Bedford honors Whaling City Youth Baseball League

“Congrats to McCann & Sons, whom we honored today at City Hall, on another championship season in the Whaling City Youth Baseball League!

Many thanks to the coaches, league officials, and sponsors for making a first-rate little league experience available to the youth of our city.” -Jon Mitchell.

Jon Mitchell photo.

New Bedford’s Fort Taber Flag to honor CPL Robert R. Gonneville KIA While Serving in Vietnam War

During the month of November, the 39th Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of CPL Robert Roland Gonneville, who served with the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Gonneville paid the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action on November 9, 1967, at the age of nineteen, while fighting in the Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam. It is fitting that CPL Gonneville be honored this Veteran’s Day, which marks 55 years since his death.

Robert was born on January 29, 1948, in Acushnet, the son of Gerard L. Gonneville and Doris B. Gonneville. While living in New Bedford, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp on June 30, 1966, in Boston, MA. He was assigned to the H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d MRVID (Rein) FMF and began is tour in Vietnam on July 13, 1967. His military specialty was Rifleman.

Nearly four months after arriving in Vietnam, CPL Gonneville was killed in action, at the age of 19, in South Vietnam, Quang Tri Province on November 9, 1967. “The Marines defensive position on Hill 158 at Nui Con Tien in the Gio Linh District of Quang Tri Province came under one of many attacks by the NVA firing artillery and mortars at the defenders. CPL Gonneville was killed in a defensive position by multiple fragmentation wounds from hostile artillery fire,” according to findagrave.com/memorial. During the Vietnam War, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines sustained the highest casualty rate in Marine Corps history.

Prior to his death, Gonneville had been wounded previously, receiving a Purple Heart, and returned to the intense fighting around Quang Tri , Khe Sanh and the DMZ. His unit earned the name “The Walking Dead” for its high casualty rate, and some claim that N. Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh had given them this label “Di bo Chet”; a threat that the unit adopted as a badge of honor, according to a New Bedford Guide article published March 19, 2014 while honoring Gonneville on Vietnam Veteran’s Day.

During his seventeen months of service, he participated in many combat and non-combat unit operations including: Operation Beacon Star, Operation Buffalo, Operation Kingfisher, Operation Lancaster and Operation Kentucky.

CPL Gonneville was awarded the following commendations for his service: The Purple Heart, The Combat Action Ribbon, The National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal, the Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, The Vietnam Gallantry Cross, The Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal and Marksman Badge.

He is honored on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. with his name inscribed on Panel 29e, Line 58. According to his brother, Richard, a plaque and flagpole were dedicated in Robert Gonneville’s name at Brooklawn Park’s Whaling City Little League field. This dedication was presented by the city of New Bedford, the Whaling City Little League and the local Poirier Post.

Survivors include his six siblings: Jeannette Demanche and her husband Robert of Fairhaven;
Rita Pothier and her husband Gerard of Fairhaven; Alfred Gonneville and his partner Lucille Post of New Bedford; William Gonneville and his wife Rosemary (deceased) of Plymouth; Richard Gonneville and his wife Patricia of Acushnet; and Gerard Gonneville and his wife Elaine of Acushnet.

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com.

New Bedford’s Fort Taber Flag to honor Dr. Herbert R. Waters, Jr. Col. U.S. Marine Corps

During the month of August, the 36th Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of Dr. Herbert R. Waters, a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps who passed away last year on August 4, 2021 at the age of 90.

Waters was born on October 8, 1930, the son of the late Herbert R. Waters, Sr. and Jane C. (Joseph) Waters. He grew up in the North End of New Bedford, on Hillman St. and attended New Bedford High School where he excelled in the ROTC program. Upon graduating high school in 1948, he attended Providence College where he ran track and cross country. After graduating from Providence College with a bachelor’s degree in 1953, he earned a commission in the United States Marine Corps.

According to his obituary, LT Waters, also known as “Bert,” became only the 10th black officer in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in the Korean War for 14 months and remained in the Marine Reserves, earning promotions ahead of his peers, eventually attaining the rank of Colonel. His primary duty station was at the Naval Air Station in South Weymouth, MA, where he became the first African American Commanding Officer of the Mass 6 Marine Air Support Squadron.

While serving in the Marine Corps Reserves, Waters continued his education, earning a Master’s degree from Bridgewater State College and a Doctorate from Nova University. He began working for the New Bedford Public School system and became a leading figure in education for the next 32 years, with the majority of his time as Principal of Sgt. William H. Carney Academy.

It was here that Dr. Waters made an indelible mark on his community and helped to shape education, not only in New Bedford but for the entire state. According to his obituary, “Through strong leadership, personal accountability and by introducing pioneering multicultural curriculum and celebrating diversity, Sgt. William H. Carney Academy quickly became the jewel of the entire school district. Presidential candidate and civil rights icon, Jesse Jackson, Governor Michael Dukakis and many other dignitaries routinely visited Carney while educators statewide began modeling Dr. Water’s innovative approach to academic leadership.”

A Standard-Times article written last year, after Water’s death, included quotes from many people who knew Dr. Waters and recalled the impact he made on the staff and students at Carney. NBPS Deputy Superintendent, Karen Treadup, wrote, “The man was great. Carney Academy benefited so much from his leadership, which was anchored in self-discipline, and which he imparted by example to his students. As principal, he engaged students with a sense of deep caring and firsthand knowledge of the challenges many of them faced.”
Mayor Jon Mitchel wrote in a statement, “As distinguished as his military career was, he is perhaps best known as the long-time principal of Carney Academy, where he developed a national reputation in urban education for setting high standards for personal accountability and academic performance.”

Once Waters retired as Principal of Carney Academy, he went on to open Carney Daycare, providing a safe learning environment for children in kindergarten through grade six.

Waters was extremely proud of his Wampanoag heritage and was a member of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness. He was known as “Black Eagle” and was a highly respected elder within the Native American community. He often traveled as a representative of the Wampanoag Nation to powwows across the country including the “Gathering of Nations” in New Mexico, the “Crow Fair” in Montana, the “Seminole Powwow” in Florida, the “Schemitzun” in Connecticut and his beloved Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow in Massachusetts.

He was also an avid runner and pilot. Waters competed in biathlons, half-marathons, countless road races and completed 27 marathons. He also enjoyed flying his personal aircraft “Bulldog,” logging several hundred hours, often taking friends and family up in his Piper Cherokee 140.

Dr. Waters was also actively involved in the Cape Verdean community. Former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang stated, “this fueled the whole idea of driving youth to reach the highest level of success, proving Waters to be a role model in all aspects of the community.”

Waters retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 1984, earning the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal.

“Dad was a genuine patriot who loved this country, the city of New Bedford, and his friends and family,” as family members remembered him. Mayor Jon Mitchell wrote in a statement, “Accomplished aviator, promotor of Wampanoag culture, and marathon runner were among the many roles he somehow fit into his extraordinary active life. His commitment to excellence in everything he undertook and his unwavering devotion to the Nation and the City, will continue to inspire those who had the good fortune of knowing him.”

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com.

New Bedford grandmother’s faith in humanity restored by treatment of grandaughter with autism

“So today from 1:30pm to 4:00pm I took my granddaughters to Harrington Park on Court St. New Bedford.

Amariannah has been bullied there a few times by children but because she is autistic it’s hard for her to understand what these children are doing or saying. This is her favorite park and if you know anything about Autism then you know that change is not easy for her.

I would like to thank the parents of another girl there today as coincidentally her name is also Amariannah. This other child stood up for my granddaughter and told the other kids to stop laughing and saying things to my granddaughter. She even followed her to tell her they have the same name.

Thank you for raising your daughter to stand up for other kids and especially the special needs kids 💙 💙 💙.”-Jennifer Lee Staples-Villegas.

Jennifer Lee Staples-Villegas photo.

Fort Taber Flag to Honor Westport’s Manuel Martin, Jr. WWII Veteran & Pearl Harbor Attack Survivor

During the month of June, the 34th Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of Manuel “Manny” Martin, Jr. of Wesport, a WWII Veteran and a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Manny was the son of the late Manuel and Mary E. (Faria) Martin, Sr., and was a lifelong resident of Westport. He passed away on July 30, 2012 at the age of 90, just two months after being interviewed for a television series entitled, Heroes Among Us.

The late Joseph Langlois, former President of the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Historical Association,
produced this television series, in conjunction with the New Bedford Cable TV, which included a series of interviews with local citizens, who according to Mr. Langlois, “experienced the trauma, the confusion and drama of war. Ordinary individuals who were confronted by extraordinary events that demanded, at times, more than they may have thought they were capable of enduring.”

In May 2012, Mr. Langlois met up with Manny Martin, at his home in Westport, to get a firsthand account of Manny’s experience during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He wanted to know what Manny heard, what he saw, what he smelled and how he felt.

Manny explained that as a young man, he lived and worked on his family’s farm in Westport. As a young man, prior to the U.S. entering WWII, he told his mother that he was going to enlist the U.S. Army. At first, she didn’t take him seriously, but shortly after visiting a recruiting office in Fall River he was on his way to Hawaii. His goal had been to go to Honolulu, so he was assigned to the US. Army Coast Artillery Corps. Within a few days Manny was on his way to Boston to board a ship.

While in Boston, “I was asked to operate a forklift. I was told that I did a good job and I got a choice bunk for my labor,” which made his ride aboard the USS America more comfortable. “A lot of guys were sick, but I wasn’t. I enjoyed the ocean ride.” The USS America was one of the three Kitty Hawk class supercarriers. “I saw Florida and the Panama Canal. I was dumbstruck. I had never been farther than Fall River! The Panama Canal was quite an experience. We went to California and stayed a couple of days. The first time I had ever seen a burlesque show!”

Manny explained that while stationed in Honolulu, he worked on the telephone system in his outfit. There were a total of 52 telephones between the electric power plant, plotting room and two 12” artillery guns.
“A lot of people don’t know how to fire a 12-inch artillery gun. You don’t just pull a trigger. In order to control a 12-inch gun, we had four outposts. I had to maintain all of the phones in every station.” The job of the outposts was to “spot anything and watch and identify. Then they would let the commander know and we’d get the guns ready to fire.” Manny went on to explain that these artillery guns took about 8 men to fire and each had a specific job. The shells were close to 5ft. long and required 272 pounds of gunpowder.

Mr. Langlois compared that to the two 12-inch guns they had a Fort Rodman. Manny explained that these artillery guns were used primarily to attack ships, not planes.

Mr. Langlois began to question Manny about the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor and what Manny was doing at the time. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I was slated to go on guard duty and I was a little upset because I didn’t like guard duty. That meant I had to get up and make early chow. I had just come out of the latrine and two guys and I saw a plane going by with a torpedo longer than the plane. Manny knew right away that it was a Japanese plane but couldn’t believe it. “Pretty soon, you could hear all of the shooting and the torpedo going off and there was one after another. Pretty soon I realized we are at war.”

He continued to explain, “The captain got on the phone and said ‘the Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor.’ We had 3 anti-aircraft guns and they were banging away. A plane crashed into our machine shop. I don’t know how many men were lost from my unit. I went down to the harbor. Everybody was in shock and didn’t know what we were going to do next. All you could see was fire and smoke. Some of the (ships) were trying to get out of the Pearl Harbor Channel. It was very narrow and if you don’t stay in the middle, you’re going to hit bottom. I heard an awful lot of bombs going off and a steady roll of machine gun fire. So many airplanes, you wonder where they were all coming from.”

Manny described more of what he saw that day. “There was a lot of smoke and the water was nothing but oil with a big slick on top of it with loads of life jackets floating on top. Pearl Harbor channel took an awful shellacking. We took a lot of shellacking. All I know is that we took a beating.”
The following days and weeks “I was assigned guard duty right there on the beach, next to the channel. Our biggest thing was to make sure nothing came into Pearl Harbor without us knowing. We had 4 outposts reporting all the time what was coming in and going out. We expected another attack but it didn’t happen.”

When asked how he felt about the experience, he replied “Everybody felt the same. (Here) we are in a beautiful place and now we’re at war.”

According to Mr. Langlois, the goal of this television series, Heroes Among Us, “was to keep the memory of these brave individuals alive as they experienced these hellish events. We must remember the price of freedom and the sacrifice that these individuals have given, for the people and the country that they love. Their courage serves as a role model for individuals of all ages that when confronted with stress and seemingly insurmountable problems, that we must face them boldly and with courage.”
Prior to his retirement, Manny worked as a carpenter and Union contractor for Local 1305. He was a communicant of St. John the Baptist Church in Westport and enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.

According to his obituary, survivors included his son: Dean Martin and his wife Karen of Westport; his daughter: Kathleen A. Coutinho and her husband Paul of New Bedford; 2 sisters: Louise Costa of Somerset and Angiemae Cane of RI; 7 grandchildren: Steven, Ryan, Holly, Dean, Jacob, Shawn and Nicole; 2 great-grandchildren: Dylan and Thomas and several nieces and nephews.
Mr. Martin was the brother of the late David, John, Ernest, Joseph and James Martin, Mamie Vieira, Lily Smith and Alice Cordeiro.

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com.

For Taber Flag to honor Sgt. Michael Cassidy Who Proudly Served in the USMC, New Bedford Police Dept.

During the month of April, the 32nd Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of Sgt. Michael Patrick Cassidy, who served his country proudly in the United States Marine Corps, as well as serving his local community as a Sgt. on the New Bedford Police Department.

Sgt. Cassidy was born in New Bedford on July 15, 1968, the son of Stephen and Barbara (Cairns) Cassidy of Fairhaven. He attended high school at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School and graduated with the class of 1986.

Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in August 1986 and went on to serve in Operation Desert Storm. Cassidy was stationed in Kanoehe, Hawaii, as part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Division Marines, 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Fleet Marine Force. He served a total of 5 years, 11 months and 19 days in the active-duty USMC, earning the rank of Sgt. (E-5), then continued to serve as a reservist for an additional 2 years.

Cassidy joined the New Bedford Police Department in 1994, serving in many roles throughout his distinguished career. Initially working as a patrolman, then working his way up to serve in the Narcotics Division, Criminal Investigation and Firearms.

Mike married his wife, Deborah A. (Fontaine) Cassidy on May 13, 2000, and they later welcomed a daughter, MacKenzie Cassidy. According to his wife, Mike was always there to help people, both on and off the job. He gave his time willingly and generously including “teaching kids martial arts, participating in fundraising events including Shop with a Cop, Buzz Off for Kids with Cancer, pedaling in the Police Unity Tour, buying local homeless hot meals and providing them with clothing,” just to name a few. “Mike was always there to lend a helping hand to everyone in need.” She explained that Mike was a very humble man and never wanted the spotlight on him. “He was our hero. We miss him every day.”

During his tenure on the police department, he received two life-saving awards, many citations and accreditation for his military and police service from the City of New Bedford, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the United States Senate. He was also a recipient of the American Red Cross Real Heroes Award. Sgt. Cassidy also taught use of force/defensive tactic and was a CPR and firearms instructor. He taught Kenpo Karate for many years and was a 5th degree black belt.

Sgt. Cassidy earned the following decorations, medals and citations throughout his military career: the Rifle Badge, Letter of Appreciation, Meritorious Mast, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Southeast Asia Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and a Letter of Commendation.

According to the New Bedford Light, a non-profit news organization, Paul Oliveira, the Acting Chief at the time, shared his thoughts. “This is a tremendous loss to our department and to the City of New Bedford, as we all know Sgt. Cassidy was a proud officer who served the people of this city with his whole heart. Sgt. Cassidy loved being a police officer and went above and beyond to impact the lives of others in a positive way.”

It was just three years before his passing that Cassidy was recognized by the department as a “life-saver” after he performed CPR on a Market Basket cashier who had slumped over her register. He was off duty at the time but was the first at the scene and did what he was trained to do.

Cassidy had previously been recognized as a lifesaver in 2006 for his actions during the births of two babies.

“I was just helping people, just being a basic human being,” stated Sgt. Cassidy, at the time of the Market Basket rescue, explaining that he was just part of a team effort with firefighters and EMS.

Former New Bedford Police Union President, Hank Turgeon, who was also a patrol officer, worked with Cassidy and described him as kind and selfless. During a fundraiser for the family, shortly after Cassidy’s passing, Turgeon explained to Channel 12 News, “Your first impression of Mike is he was very rough around the edges. He was a Marine, a SWAT Team guy,” he said. “Once you got to

know Mike, he was extremely compassionate, and he was involved in every charitable event. He had a passion for this job and an even bigger love for people.”

Michael P. Cassidy passed away at the age of 52 on April 28, 2021, due to Covid-19. In addition to his wife, Deborah, his daughter MacKenzie and his parents Stephen and Barbara Cassidy, he is survived by his brothers, Stephen J. Cassidy and his wife Natalie of Mattapoisett, Christopher Cassidy and his wife Jacquie of Fairhaven; his sister, Maureen Missey and her husband Ray of Fairfield, OH, his nieces and nephews: Stevie and Meghan Cassidy, Joshua and Britany Cassidy, Mark and Mitch Aguiar, Nathan and Marissa Elias as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and great nieces and nephews.

His name will be added to the Police Memorial in Washington, DC during the celebration of Police Week from May 15th through May 21st.

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com.

Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Flag Honors New Bedford’s PFC Justin C. Kirby

During the month of March, the 31st Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of PFC Justin Candido Kirby, a New Bedford native who was killed at the age of 21, two years ago, on March 9, 2020, in a training exercise at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in CA.

Justin was born on April 13, 1998, in Brockton, MA, the son of Robert J. Kirby and Patricia (Cox) Kirby, both of New Bedford. He attended the Global Learning Charter Public School in New Bedford from 5th to 12th grade, graduating in 2016. Principal Lena Pires recalled “the amazing growth that that young man experienced, and I don’t think it was just our school, it was his own amazing growth.” She had seen him while he was on a break from training. “My last memory is of him happy, healthy, talking with a sparkle in his eye about what he’s doing in the military.” She could tell he was living his passion.

He graduated from Bristol Community College in Dec. 2018 with honors, earning an Associate Degree in Fire Science and successfully completing the Emergency Medical Technician program. According to his family, it was his intention to serve in the military and eventually become a firefighter. He had already committed to serving in the military for an additional 4 years.

PFC Kirby enlisted in the United States Army in January 2019 and completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC. Upon completion, he attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and graduated as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Specialist from Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

While participating in Basic Training, Justin shared his experience with his family through letters. On January 20, 2019, he wrote, “I’m slowly losing touch with the civilian style of life, and I am adjusting well to the soldier lifestyle. The days are pretty long so it feels as if I’ve been gone a lot longer than I have been.” Then nearly two months later, on March 18th, Justin wrote about his excitement about becoming an Army soldier. “As of yesterday, I’m officially a soldier. We completed the forge which forged us into soldiers. We stayed in the woods for 3 nights and four days. It poured nearly the entire time and was freezing. We are given a small tarp and some rope and 3 stakes and just kind of make a canopy on a tree for shelter. We marched a total of 50 miles in those 4 days, going from location to location with our gear.” He was excited to have completed the training and was proud of his accomplishment.

PFC Kirby then moved to Fort Benning, GA in June 2019 to participate in the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. In September 2019, he moved to Fort Irwin, CA where he was assigned to the Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop (RHHT), Regimental Support Squadron (RSS), 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) as a member of the Regiments’ Smoke Platoon.

According to Fort Irwin, as a member of the Smoke Platoon, PFC Kirby participated in nine obscuration missions in support of the Brigade Tactical Group during three Decisive Action rotations at the National Training Center. He enabled Smoke Platoon to achieve 100% on their Platoon Mission Essential Tasks external evaluation during Rotation 20-01 He also led training for over eighty 2916th Aviation Battalion Soldiers in November 2019 which enabled them to become proficient at CBRN-related tasks and gain confidence in their equipment.

Kirby was taking part in a “large-scale” exercise within the center’s training grounds at the time of his death. Conducting combat maneuver operations in an M1113 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, known as a Humvee, when a “vehicle accident occurred. Col. Scott Woodward, 68th Colonel of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, said Kirby was well known across the regiment and “his passing has deeply affected us all.”

Jason Miller, from Fort Irwin’s Public Affairs office, told the California Daily Press that the military exercise involved approx. 7,500 soldiers who were in the center’s training area at the time of the accident. “This number includes personnel from the National Training Center as well as approx. 5,000 soldiers who (were there) for training.” The National Training center conducts 10 training rotations annually, training Brigade Combat Teams to build and sustain readiness to fight and win.” The soldiers were conducting what Miller described as “realistic training reflective of the complexities our nation could face in combat.”

A former Global Learning classmate of Kirby’s, Eric Santos, explained “It was always his dream to serve his country.” He had plans of serving in the Army and then becoming a firefighter. “Justin Kirby is a role model to many, including myself, and a truly exceptional human being.” Santos said “he had a very bright future ahead of him, and at the very least he died doing what he loved. I remember him as a great friend, a great warrior and a hero.”

During his high school and college years, he worked at Pa Raffa’s, his family’s restaurant, where he was well known. Justin was also an Instructor at the Community Boating Center, located at the Fort Taber-Fort Rodman Park, where he had taken lessons as a kid. Justin also enjoyed wrestling and boxing. He had a love of music and attended many concerts over the years, including a KISS concert which he recalled in one of his letters to his dad while attending Basic Training.

New Bedford Mayor, Jon Mitchell, ordered flags at city buildings flown at half-staff after Kirby’s passing. “Justin’s service to our nation reflected his deep commitment to a cause larger than himself and the values of his family of public servants,” Mitchell said in a statement. “It is my hope that the gratitude and reverence of our city for Justin’s dedication and patriotism may bring some measure of comfort to Justin’s family as they mourn his sudden loss.”

Justin’s father and twin brother are both in public service, with his dad, Robert Kirby, working as a New Bedford firefighter and Justin’s brother, Jason, working as a full-time firefighter/paramedic for the town of Lakeville and a part-time paramedic for the city of New Bedford. Jason’s older brother, Richard, also known as “Ricky,” is employed as a Project Manager for a security company in Plymouth, MA.

According to his mother, Justin’s Readiness NCO, SFC Jason Boyd, from Camp Edwards said, “he couldn’t believe he accomplished so much in his short career with the Army.” PFC Justin Kirby was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon and the Battalion Commander and Sergeant Major’s coin for excellence.

Tricia, his mom, explained that Justin’s death happened right at the beginning of COVID, when things were shut down. However, she was “overwhelmed with gratitude for the love and grace everyone bestowed upon Justin. I didn’t know how everyone knew but they were all there to honor him, even in dark times.” From the moment they left Rock Funeral home, on their way to Logan Airport, she was struck by the support of complete strangers. “All of the people on the plane remained (in their seats) until he was released and welcomed home by his family.” She goes on to explain that she remembers “Justin and (our) family being honored at every overpass by firefighters, first responders and police! I saw a WWII veteran standing and saluting at the bottom of an exit ramp. All the way home this continued. I’ll remember that day all the days of my life.” She said it was wonderful to see the scores of people lined up along Acushnet Avenue, as well as outside Pa Raffa’s, his former workplace, and along the Sacred Heart Cemetery to pay their respects.

Justin’s dad explained that the day they brought Justin home after his passing was the “Best-Worse day ever.” He remembers the amazing tribute Justin received on the car ride from Boston to New Bedford, bringing Justin’s remains home. He was struck by the display of support which included shutting down the highway along the route. Each overpass along the way was filled with local firefighters, EMS personnel and police officers paying tribute. “There was one ladder truck with 3 firefighters standing at different levels on the ladder, saluting Justin as we drove by. We can’t thank them enough for their support. It really meant a lot.”

Justin is survived by his mother, Patricia (Cox) Kirby of New Bedford, his father, Robert J. Kirby and his wife Dawn of New Bedford, his twin brother, Jason D. Kirby of New Bedford, his older brother, Richard A. Kirby of S. Dartmouth, a sister Angela Russano and several aunts, uncles and cousins. He was predeceased by his paternal grandparents William F. and Georgette M. Kirby and his maternal grandmother Cecelia A. Cox.

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com.

Flag to honor Veteran Walter LaBerge of Swansea flies over Fort Taber

During the month of January, the 17th Lights for Peace flag to fly at the Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum honors the memory of Walter LaBerge, who served with the United States Army from 1959 to 1965. LaBerge entered into the military on November 4, 1959 and did his basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. He was attached to Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry as an infantry soldier assigned to Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.

Wintertime temperatures in the area around Fort Richardson can range from 80 degrees below zero to 40 degrees, according to militarybases.com. Soldiers stationed at Fort Richardson are required to learn and master unique skills that are taught in few other places. Winter survival, tundra crossing, river lining, snow and glacier travel, snow combat and cold weather vehicle operation are all part of the normal training program at the base. According to his family LaBerge spoke of the rigorous training known as “snow baths” which required soldiers to rise in the morning in their skivvies and boots, using soap and snow to bathe themselves. He also spoke to his children of his time in the Army, sharing his adventure of rock climbing and repelling as well as training maneuvers to secure Kodiak Island.

LaBerge was born in Fall River, the son of the late Walter and Ernestine (Boucher) Laberge. He also resided in Swansea and was a graduate of BMC Durfee High School, attended Bradford Durfee Technological Institute and received his Associates Degree from Bristol Community College.

He served in the active duty Army from 1959 to 1962 and went on to serve in the Army Reserves from 1962 to 1965. He was honorably discharged from the military on September 30, 1965 at the rank of E4, by the order of D.D. Spahr, Colonel, AGC. Upon arriving home from serving in the military, Walter married his high school sweetheart, Gail D. (Cloutier). He was employed as a Quality Control Engineer for Princess House in Dighton for 15 years before his retirement in 2000. Prior to that he held the same job with Providence Pile and started his career with Pratt Whitney in Connecticut.

He truly enjoyed donating his time and served as a Docent for both the Fort Taber Military Museum, as well as the New Bedford Whaling Museum, providing tours to the public. Walter had many interests. He was an avid bird watcher, sports car enthusiast and enjoyed traveling to Maine, cross country skiing and kayaking. He loved to watch football with his sons, especially the Army/Navy football games! He also enjoyed taking his daughter on trips with friends.

LaBerge passed away on October 21, 2015 at the age of 74. In addition to his wife Gail, whom he was married to for 52 years, he is survived by his four children Mark Laberge and his wife Maryellen of Dighton, Bradford Laberge of Swansea, Dawn Butterfield and her husband John of Seekonk and W. David Laberge Jr. of Swansea. His children made him a grandfather of seven grandchildren: Jacob, Kelsey, Austin, Gabrielle, Kyle, Ryan and Dylan. He is also survived by his sister Georgette Levesque of Swansea; niece and nephews Diane, Rene and Donald; as well as a brother in law, Ronald Cloutier, of Colorado. He is also survived by his very best childhood friend, Max Marum, who he remained close with until his departure.

Walter was always very witty and was known for his wonderful sayings; including: “I haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays!” or “You’re a gentleman and a scholar and there’s not many of us left!” When asked how he was, he would often answer, “I’m fair to midlin!” He attended church every week and was a devoted Catholic man. According to his family, Walter could be a stern man with his children, at times, but it was all to teach them good solid morals. “Above all, Walter was a family man. He is loved and missed deeply and will always be carried in our hearts, as a Veteran and a father.”

Linda Ferreira, of Empire Ford of New Bedford, researches the life histories of area residents. American flags are provided by Empire Ford of New Bedford. Flags are raised by the staff at Fort Taber – Fort Rodman Military Museum. Those who would like to honor a local veteran in the future can contact Ferreira at lferreira@buyempireautogroup.com​

Hometown Heroes of Greater New Bedford #15: TSgt Justin Miranda and SSgt Katherine A. Miranda

“My husband, TSgt Justin Miranda is currently serving in the Air Force he graduated basic training at Lackland AFB in 2008 and has served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Operation Odyssey Dawn and Osan, Korea. I am a veteran also. I served in the Air Force as a SSgt with 514th Maintenance Group at McGuire AFB, NJ. I graduated basic training in 2009 also at Lackland AFB. We have been stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, and Moody AFB Valdosta GA.

We met in New Bedford High School and graduated in 2005. We have been married for 11 years! We are proud to call New Bedford our home. We come to visit family and friends whenever possible.” -Katherine A. Miranda.


If you are interested in having someone be highlighted for a Hometown Hero of the greater New Bedford email info@newbedfordguide.com.

Read more of the ometown Heroes of Greater New Bedford series here.

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