EMMITSBURG — As 99-year-old Eugene Zacharias sat on a folding chair Saturday morning to watch the re-dedication of the town’s “doughboy” statue, he was in nearly the same place where he watched the same scene unfold 89 years ago.
Zacharias was an honored guest on Saturday, having attended the original unveiling on May 28, 1927. That was when the town had come together, holding bake sales and recycling bottles, to raise the $1,000 goal set by a memorial committee. The collection was to honor the 135 servicemen and servicewomen from the Emmitsburg area who fought in World War I, including nine who were killed.
Zacharias said some of his memories of that day remain vivid, while others are lost in the sea of memories of his nearly 100 years, he said.
But Zacharias remembered the end of the original ceremony, when two women helped pull down the shroud to unveil the statue. According to a 1927 article in The (Frederick) Daily News, the women were Mrs. E.H. Rowe, the mother of Private Francis Rowe, the first Emmitsburg district soldier to die in a training camp; and Mrs. Kester Reifsnider, mother of Private Robert B. Reifsnider, the first from the district to die overseas.
“[The shroud] fell away to a round of applause I think you could hear in Westminster or Baltimore,” Zacharias told Sunday’s crowd.
On Saturday, the town once again celebrated the statue, which was restored after it was knocked off its pedestal during a single-vehicle crash last June.
In March, the statue, scrubbed and repaired, was placed atop a new, 6-ton limestone pedestal near the statue’s original location in front of the historic Emmit House. The limestone came from the same Indiana quarry that provided the statue’s original base before it was erected in 1927.
“Doughboy” was a colloquial name for an infantryman during World War I. The statue depicts a soldier with a rifle in one hand and a grenade in the other.
Glenn Blanchard, a town commissioner, led Saturday’s event and remembered his own grandfather, who served in the war.
Mayor Donald N. Briggs thanked the residents and particularly veterans for their patience in replacing the statue. For a period after the June crash, the town considered whether to recast the historic plaque at the base of the statue, where three of the veterans appear under a separate heading for “colored soldiers.”
Ultimately, the town chose to reinstall the original plaque.
“It took some time and it’s back in place … but unwaveringly, the focus from all quarters was always on those who fought for our country and those who lost their lives doing so,” Briggs said.
County Executive Jan Gardner also spoke during the ceremony, highlighting the importance of the statue.
“Today we celebrate more than just the return of a special statue,” Gardner said. “Above all else, the ‘doughboy’ represents the sacrifice made by soldiers during The Great War. Thanks to the ‘doughboy’ statue, we’ll never forget the names of those who made that ultimate sacrifice.”
Parts of the ceremony showed the deep family roots and shared history of military families in Emmitsburg.
Zacharias took a moment on Saturday to share another memory. He recalled coming into town for the original ceremony and sharing a nice conversation with Martin Luther Kugler, who was himself a World War I veteran.
Some years later, Zacharias married Kugler’s only daughter, Anna, who is known around town as “Sis.”
This September, they will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary, Zacharias shared with the crowd, who responded with a large cheer.
After Saturday’s event, Anna Zacharias sat chatting with Gloria Bauerline and Etta Mae Norris. The three women are charter members of the Emmitsburg VFW Post 6658 Ladies Auxiliary.
Bauerline said Saturday’s dedication was especially important to her because her uncle, Ben Sebold, is listed among the veterans on the plaque.
The Emmitsburg statue is one of many across the U.S. designed by E.M. Viquesney, a well-known American sculptor of “doughboy” images.
The only other town in Maryland believed to have a Viquesney “doughboy” is Crisfield, on the Eastern Shore.