READFIELD — The students at Maranacook Community High School know that there’s no school on Monday, Memorial Day, but not a lot of them know why. Students learned the stories of two Maine soldiers who lost their lives during World War II during an assembly Thursday in the school’s gymnasium.

“I didn’t really know why we celebrated Memorial Day, but getting into the stories of individual people who died for it, it is nice to understand that it’s not just a day off,” junior Andrew Caron said. “It’s nice to realize people died to protect us.”

Army Capt. Joseph Berry, of Wayne, and Army Pfc. Harvey Madore, who was born in Cyr Plantation but attended school in Augusta, fought and died during the war. Shane Gower’s honors U.S. history students have learned their stories as a part of the Understanding Sacrifice program run by the American Battle Monuments Commission that Gower was accepted into last fall.

“What makes it more interesting to the students is the personal connection,” Gower said. “They are learning the stories of two particular soldiers from our area who were killed, and meeting their families and hearing the stories make its more real to them.”

Gower, the 2016 Maine Social Studies Teacher of the Year, is one of 18 teachers nationally in the program. He plans to travel to Italy, France and Belgium in July to visit four World War II cemeteries, including the graves of Berry and Madore.

After a video about Memorial Day, junior Logan Stanley read several sentences about the meaning of sacrifice before introducing a video slideshow about Madore, then Berry.

Madore’s son, Bob, and grandson, Roger, were in attendance and set up several tables displaying memorabilia and artifacts from Harvey Madore’s life, including his Purple Heart certificate and a replica medal, photos and equipment.

Bob Madore, 74, of Augusta, said he’s learned more about his father in the last seven months thanks to Gower than he had in the previous 70 years.

“It was through the generosity of Mr. Gower,” Madore said. He said he couldn’t find much information over the years because the family members who knew anything wouldn’t talk because of what Madore said was a “voodoo” about not asking questions.

“They’d say, ‘Your father is dead; he’s buried in France,’ and to leave it at that,” Madore said. “Leaving well enough alone was never enough for me.” A lot of the information he had, Madore said, was gained by listening to his elders.

Roger Madore, 47, said he knew only anecdotal stories and wanted to know more.

“My dad didn’t have much information to give me, and the people that knew weren’t talking,” Roger Madore said while organizing the table display of his grandfather’s photos and memorabilia. “Everyone wanted to put it behind them, because by the time I wanted to know more, it had been more than 40 years since he had died.”

For a good part of his life, Bob Madore was angry that his father was buried in an American cemetery in Epinal, France, not far from where he was killed in 1945. But after visiting the gravesite with his son several years ago, that changed.

“I felt a little anger that he was buried there, but that dissipated and went away when we went to (see the grave),” he said. “I realized he was with his buddies in a beautifully kept place.”

Gower said the students had a better understanding of the war by hearing personal stories of members of their community, and several students agreed.

Caron, 16, said he couldn’t imagine fighting the type of war fought in World War II, because now there is so much technology. He said he likes not having to worry about enlisting because of the sacrifices made by people before him.

The students have learned about World War II throughout school, but hearing stories about soldiers from Maine was a big deal.

“It’s definitely given me more of an appreciation for soldiers and those who have fought for us,” junior Hannah Skehan said. “It’s a lot more personal when you learn about specific people, especially people from Maine.”

Both Madores and Berry’s nephew, Ford Stevenson, expressed gratitude to Gower for his work in uncovering previously unknown information about their relatives.

“What I knew of my grandfather was very abstract. I could only paint a picture in my mind of what I thought he might have been like,” Roger Madore said. “Now that I have more information, I have a better appreciation for what kind of man he was.”

Stevenson, of Wayne, said his uncle saw serious and significant action before being killed in 1943 near Gela, Sicily, during Operation Husky.

“It’s very important for us and especially the young kids to understand what happened, because it’s hard to get a grip on the sacrifices they made,” Stevenson said. “They gave their effort for this country, but their lives were taken.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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