Emotional family appreciates town’s efforts in remembering Sgt. Harold Shaughnessy 100 years later

Kathy Bockus/Courier Members of the family of Sgt. Harold Shaughnessy ,who travelled from throughout the United States, prepare to lay a wreath in his honor during the Remembrance Day service in St. Stephen. Shaughnessy was from St. Stephen, His remains were found last year in France, 100 years after his death during the battle of Hill 70, and identified earlier this year. he was interred with his comrades in a commonwealth cemetery in France this summer.

St. Stephen – An 88-year-old nun and a retired history teacher were among those representing the family of Sgt. Harold Wilfred Shaughnessy during Saturday’s Remembrance Day service, at the St. Stephen Cenotaph.

The two had never met, yet they shared the same overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude for the community which opened its arms and its heart to them, as residents remembered a St. Stephen soldier killed more than 100 years ago.
It’s a Remembrance Day experience Shaughnessy’s family members, from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Michigan will never forget.

“I wish my mother was here,” said an emotional Jack Kennedy of Massachusetts, a single tear rolling down his cheek.
“She would have been excited about this.”

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Kennedy is Shaughnessy’s grand nephew. Shaughnessy was killed at the age of 33 in the Battle of Hill 70, in the First World War. His remains were discovered during a construction excavation in France last year, and positively identified earlier this year. He was buried this summer with full military honours in France with his fallen comrades.

To honour Shaughnessy’s ultimate sacrifice the St. Croix Legion, Branch No. 9 decided to invite his family members to its Remembrance Day service this year, to lay a wreath in his memory, an unusual addition to a service which doesn’t normally single out any one individual.

The service, like many others throughout the country, is held to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice – those who served and those still in active service.
“This has come full circle,” said Ann (Osborne ) Mucinskas of Massachusetts, who with her husband, Paul, and brother, Jim Osborne from Maryland, attended the service in St. Stephen.

“It’s so great what you do here in this little town of St. Stephen, the people on the street, and the honour guard. I truly am impressed and touched that you would remember someone who had died 100 years ago,” said Mucinskas.
Her great-grandmother, and Kennedy’s great-grandmother were sisters. She and Kennedy, who only live about 40 miles apart in Massachussetts, had never met until Friday night in St. Stephen.

Mucinskas said the trip to St. Stephen has given her the opportunity to connect with family members she never met, and to meet face to face with others she has only corresponded with, or spoken to on the phone.
One of those was Sister Mary Rosalie Smith. Her mother, Eileen Osborne Smith, was born in St. Stephen. “Harold was my mother’s first cousin.”
Smith, a member of the Sacramentine Order, lives in Michigan, and travelled four days to visit St. Stephen, courtesy of two friends from Wisconsin.

Seated at a chair at the Cenotaph, and wrapped in a warm blanket against the chill wind, Smith said it was a beautiful drive, and she’s glad she came.
When Mucinskas first contacted her she felt the trip might be too much for her. “But here I am. I changed my mind,” she said with a laugh.
She said being with family members to lay a wreath for Shaughnessy was “thrilling, just thrilling.

“Even 100 years later they considered him to be part of the family, and treated him to be exactly that. It was very touching.”

~Jack Kennedy

“I’m very, very glad to be here.” Smith said she was last in St. Stephen about 15 years ago, but spent many summers as a child visiting family here. She noted it was 72 years ago this week, that she left Milltown “on my way to the monastery to become a sister.”
Smith said she thought the town and legion’s effort to honour Shaughnessy was “marvelous.”

“I don’t think you could do any better.”
“We’re very pleased to be here, even though temperature is very cold,” said Kennedy with a smile.
The retired history teacher travelled to St. Stephen with his wife Helen. He also attended his great uncle’s interment in France.

“I knew of him,” he said of Shaughnessy. “I knew he had died in the Great War, and his remains had not been found. I had that information. But going over, I had no idea what to expect.”
He said at the service in France, the military filled in the roles of family who couldn’t be there.

Kennedy said he was touched that Shaughnessy was still considered a member of the Canadian military family.
“Even 100 years later they considered him to be part of the family, and treated him to be exactly that. It was very touching.”
Kennedy is placing this whole experience in the top 10 of his life.

“It’s been quite the journey,” stated Mucinskas.
She said she had a tear in her eye when Shaughnessy’s wreath was laid.
“We’re so proud of him,” said Mucinskas.
“I thought he was such a valiant man from his letters that I read. We forget these people (who) laid down their lives had plans. They wanted to come home, and they didn’t, and because of them we have the freedoms we have today.”

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.