Figure 1. Craig monument. River Bend Cemetery, Westerly, R.I. Photo: author.

Merle Hay is memorialized as the first American to die in World War I. Not far from Scranton, Iowa, there is a monument to him erected along the Lincoln Highway near his grave in West Lawn Cemetery in Glidden, Iowa. We used to see it when we would drive west from Ames. On a similar theme, last weekend I came across the handsome Wallace C. Craig monument (figure 1) in River Bend Cemetery in Westerly, Rhode Island.

WALLACE C. CRAIG
1898-1918
MINE SQUADRON No. 1.
U.S. ATLANTIC FLEET.
                  THE FIRST WESTERLY
BOY TO DIE IN THE SERVICE OF
HIS BELOVED COUNTRY IN THE
WORLD WAR.

Figure 2. Craig monument. River Bend Cemetery, Westerly, R.I. Photo: author.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF
WALLACE C. CRAIG
FROM HIS SHIPMATES
OF THE U.S.S. AROOSTOOK

The plaque with portrait on Craig’s monument (figure 2) notes that the monument was erected by his shipmates of the U.S.S. Aroostook, a mine sweeper. A little digging on the University of Rhode Island alumni web site reveals that he died on land of “pneumonia” on 11 February 1918, about a month before the first wave of the Spanish Flu hit the United States. While Craig was a far more handsome man than I, to my eye the left-profile portrait nevertheless looks a bit goofy, perhaps due to the poor light in my photograph.

Two badges flank the portrait. On the left, with the initials W H S (Westerly High School) running in a ribbon below, is a diamond figure with the initials MVC. On the right side, with the initials R I S C (Rhode Island State College, later The University of Rhode Island) running in a ribbon below, is a tall diamond with the initials PIK. The identity of both MVC (a high-school club?) and PIK (a fraternity?) appear to be unrecoverable now, at least without access to yearbooks from the 1910s, which I lack.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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