LAWRENCE — On Nov. 7, 1918, a young man from Lawrence died fighting in World War I. On Wednesday, 100 years later to the day, his family and a number of local officials came to a spot in the city that has long been dedicated in his honor.
Augustine Denis Regan and six of his friends from Tower Hill in Lawrence served in the Second Infantry Division together during World War I. They called themselves the West End Boys and fought alongside each other.
All seven men were either wounded or killed in action. Augustine (Gus) Regan died only four days before the Armistice that marked the end of the Great War.
Descendants of Regan gathered at the intersection of Melrose, Bodwell and Greenwood streets Wednesday to celebrate the rededication of a square named in his honor by the Lawrence City Council many years ago.
"As we come together, we remember another coming together way back in 1917. Then, as now, the children of the immigrant city were among the first to answer the call to arms, many from the Tower Hill neighborhood," said Peter Caeser, whose grandmother was Regan's sister.
"Friends in work and play volunteered shortly after our country entered World War I," he added. "They were surely patriotic: Their families had found a measure of acceptance and prosperity in coming to Lawrence from all over the world."
The square was officially adopted by the Regan family descendants and they were responsible for its beautification.
"This is a special day for the family, the entire city, and the country," said Marc Laplante, a city councilor who is passionate about finding and honoring locals affected by World War I.
Jeovanny Rodriguez, Lawrence city councillor for the neighborhood, talked about the state of the park in the not so distant past.
"Three years ago, when I joined the City Council, this square and rotary was a little bit of a mess," Rodriguez said. "Today we see the result (of the work that was done.)"
Just hours after attending the ceremony, Laplante hopped on a plane to France to pay respects at cemeteries and battlegrounds where Lawrence soldiers lay in rest, something he did last year as well.
On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, Laplante will stream live on social media from the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery for an Armistice Day ceremony.
Laplante's commemoration of his hometown's war dead buried overseas goes beyond the trips to their graves.
He recently began what he calls the Lawrence WWI Project, in which current and former city officials tell the stories of Lawrence residents who received official recognition with a bridge, park, pool, street corner, or building, for their deaths in World War I. Regan is one of 35 people to receive such recognition.
Thanks to a scrapbook recovered by a relative of Regan's, documents found and maintained by Lawrence librarian Louise Sandberg, and World War I aficionado Laplante, the beautification of Cpl. Augustine Denis Regan Square got underway.
He was, as far as records show, the last Lawrencian to die before the end of World War I.