AUGUSTA — For Kelsey Rohman, the drive to restore the plaques bearing the names of Cony High School’s dead World War I and II soldiers was about much more than tarnished brass or missing letters. It was about forgotten history and dismissed honor.

After spending at least a decade tucked away in a closet, the trio of plaques honoring the soldiers who died in war are ready to go back on display.

“These people are being forgotten. These names are being forgotten,” Rohman said following a ceremony at the high school to dedicate the plaques and honor Rohman for her effort to have them restored. “They’re not being recognized as they should be.”

Rohman, a 2015 graduate who is currently a freshman at the University of Maine at Farmington, was invited to Friday’s school assembly under the premise that she would help dedicate the plaques and share her story with the students. What she found instead was a ceremony that included officials from the city and Maine National Guard that was much more about honoring her.

“Kelsey is going to change Cony, whether she knows it or not,” social studies teacher Shawn Totman told the students. “The plaques are home. These men and women have come home, and it’s all because of Kelsey Rohman. For that we owe her a debt of gratitude.”

The plaques will soon be on display above the cafeteria just inside the entryway. Rohman liked the idea.

“Why not put them in a place where everyone gets to see them?” said lead custodian Keith Stockmar.

Totman inadvertently lit the spark in Rohman when he mentioned the plaques during class. They were stored in a room at the Capital Area Technical Center, which is attached to the high school.

Totman has taught at the school for nearly 20 years, much of which were spent in the old high school building on Cony Circle. He remembered the plaques hanging in the flatiron building. They were taken down and put in storage in 2006 when the new school building opened on Pierce Drive.

Rohman, with the help of Stockmar, found the plaques tucked away. They were all badly in need of repair, and Rohman made it her mission to make that happen.

“I wanted to give back to Cony,” she said. “This place is really special to me.”

Finding someone willing to restore the plaques, say nothing of raising the money to pay for it, proved more difficult than Rohman imagined. She was told on at least one occasion that the plaques could not be restored and that the only answer was to recreate the monuments. Rohman was committed to keeping the originals.

Her break came when an employee at Pittsfield-based CM Almy, which restores metalware for churches, read a story about the project in the Kennebec Journal. The employee mentioned the project to Metalware Production Manager Jim Wiggin.

“Can’t you do something?” Wiggin recalled the employee asking. “I don’t know.”

Wiggin, who happens to be the father of Augusta Police Officer Carly Wiggin, Cony’s School Resource Officer, contacted Rohman through his daughter. Carly Wiggin took the plaques to her father for an appraisal. Rohman wanted the restored plaques to maintain their authenticity and heritage.

“She was very specific about not making them like new,” Wiggin recalled. “She wanted them restored, but aged. Make them look like new, but not brand new. She wanted to retain the fact that they were old.”

Rohman admits to gasping a little when she heard the price, but Wiggin and Almy ultimately agreed to donate all the time and material needed to restore the plaques. Wiggin estimated he spent 40 hours on the project.

“It was a challenge,” Wiggin said. “We couldn’t resist.”

Rohman, who had only exchanged emails with Wiggin before meeting him for the first time at Friday’s ceremony, said he and Almy “put more effort in this than we could have ever asked for.”

“It’s all about Kelsey,” Wiggin countered.

That sentiment permeated Friday’s ceremony as Totman urged the students in the room to follow Rohman’s example.

“Every single one of you will leave something behind when you leave Cony,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of students who have gone through this school who have left a little piece of themselves behind as well. Cony is not just a building or school; it’s an institution. It’s a part of who we all are in the Augusta area.”

City Councilor Cecil Munson, reading a proclamation first given by Mayor David Rollins during Thursday’s council meeting, lauded the effort of Rohman, Wiggin, Stockmar and the other teachers and administrators who helped with the project and “urged other students to do what they can to serve their community.”

Brigadier Gen. Gerard Bolduc, commander of the Maine Army National Guard, recalled with regret his failure to get to know the World War I veterans who were still alive when he was in high school. He urged the students to not make the same mistake. There are about 6,700 World War II veterans left in Maine, but that number is shrinking.

“Talk to them,” Bolduc said. “They really weren’t a lot older than you sitting here today. World War II veterans are a special breed of hero.”

It was one of those veterans, Rohman’s grandfather Theodore Rohman, who helped inspire Kelsey’s interest in history and her respect for veterans. Theodore Rohman spent 25 years in the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean seas during World War II. He died in 2011.

“I know it would be special for him to see his granddaughter is doing something for the veterans,” said Kelsey’s father, Mark Rohman. “I’m very proud of the work she did.”

Mark Rohman said the passion for history he and his daughter share ultimately come from Theodore and his wife, Virginia Rohman. Kelsey Rohman’s dedication can be traced to both sides of the family, which includes her mother, Merrilee Rohman, and her parents, Philip and Connie Mower of Greene, all of whom were at Friday’s ceremony.

“She just has a wonderful sense of community and making sure people get credit for what they do,” Merrilee Rohman said.

But for Rohman, the project has always been about remembering the lost, so it makes sense that her favorite part of Friday’s ceremony was not the prolonged standing ovation given to her by the hundreds of students, staff and guests, but the encounter she had with science teacher Cynthia Fylstra.

“She said, ‘You have no idea how much this meant to me because my father was a World War II veteran,'” Rohman said. “I got a little teary-eyed. I’m completely blown away.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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Twitter: @CraigCrosby4