Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 05-22-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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16 THE VALLEY MAY 22-28, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | PAWTUCKET EDITION "Hometown man is 'rocked and buffeted by wind, his machine is threatened with destruction over bat- tle line in France,'" the October 1917 headline read. Historians disagree slightly but generally count 209 American men who completed their French flight training to serve at the front. Fifty-nine are said to have died in combat and six more in training accidents. The monument that remembers this local man was installed some 80 years ago by his sister, Margaret Stearns, and had stood barely noticed for years. "It was always kind of neglected," Tramontana said. "Always in just in such a sad state." Over the years, he said, the North Cumberland Fire Department had added flagpoles and its own monu- ment to firefighters, partially obscur- ing the Stearns marker and two urns that flank it. Flowers haven't been planted there in years, Tramontana said. So just in time for Memorial Day next week, and with permission of the Cumberland Fire Committee, the marker was relocated to a promi- nent location at the nearby Arnold Mills Community House property. Tramantano serves on the com- munity house board of directors, a facility donated by Russell's sister Margaret a few years after Russell's death. Large evergreen plant- ings were installed this month to dress up the monument, as well as flowers in the urns. Russell Stearns, born 1896, had grown up in Pawtucket with his older sister Margaret and younger brother Henry, children of Walter Stearns and Abigail Harris Stearns. As tod- dlers they lived on Walnut Street, accord- ing to the 1900 census, and by 1910 were living on Summit Street. A look at their moth- er's family tree finds familiar Arnold Mills family names – Razee, Peck, Metcalf, Whipple, Cook, and Ballou – dat- ing back many genera- tions. There were industri- alists, inventors, and military men, all descendants of Isaac Stearns who came to America in 1630. The children's grandfather, Henry Augustus Stearns, founded the firm still known as Stearns and Foster Co. in Ohio, and was vice president and superintendent of Union Wadding Co. in Pawtucket. Their uncle, Charles Falconer Stearns, sat on the Rhode Island Supreme Court bench and served briefly as lieutenant governor. Stearns' first name reflected gen- erations of family members: Russell was the last name of his fourth great- grandfather Jason Russell, born 1716, who was killed by the British on retreat from Lexington.The Falconer name dated back to the 17th century in Scotland where John Falconer, a seventh great-grandfather, was mas- ter of the mint in Edinburgh and relates to keepers of falcons for the king. It was April of 1917 when Stearns left school to travel to France. Assigned first to the American Ambulance Corps, two months later he enlisted in France's Service Aeronautique. He processed through the aviation, aerobatic, and gunnery training pipeline at the Avord school. He was assigned to the French Escadrille SPA 150 in Group de Combat 16. He flew several combat patrols and escorted bombers over Alsace-Lorraine. Stearns' World War I registration card, filed in Pawtucket in May 1918, confirms his early-bird involve- ment in the war. Where it asks for his employment, he listed himself as a corporal with the French Airabon Service of the French Army for the past 18 months. And where was he employed? "At the front," Stearns' answer reads on the form. Information about his short ser- vice career is contained in at least two early 1920s volumes that detail the lives of America's first wartime aviators:"The Lafayette Flying Corps," edited by James Norman Hall and Charles Bernard Nordhoff, and "New England Aviators, 1914- 1918," by Lawrence Lowell. "The Lafayette Flying Corps" con- firm what readers of the Pawtucket Times would later surmise. The Stearns sketch notes, "The fact that he became a pilot and went through the school of acrobacy at Pau speaks well for his determination and pluck for he hated flying from the beginning, and often told his friends that he dreaded the thought of going into the air and disliked the very sight of a flying machine." It quotes one of Stearns' letters to home during his training in June: "We are a few miles out of Belfort, which I like immensely and which gets bombed often. The German machines fly over our airdrome quite frequently and then the anti-aircraft guns get busy and we have quite a time. My work consists of escorting bombing planes, patrolling and hunt- ing. "I am given my regular machine tomorrow, which I regret to say is a type out of vogue and which enables the crafty Hun to make circles around me. However our entire esca- drille changes to Spads in 10 days and there is no better machine out than that ..." He wrote that Aviation "requires perfection in all of a man's faculties and I am trying to keep myself in the best physical shape possible. One false step might mean the end … I have become a fatalist as every avia- tor does and am prepared to accept whatever awaits me." The Lowell volume notes that Stearns flew at the front in late 1917 as a member of Escadrille 150, Groupe de Combat 16. On one occasion while traveling over the lines alone, three German planes attacked him but he eluded them and returned in safely. It was another letter home, appar- ently written during his training days, that detailed life as a new aviator. He was writing in a Belgium café just hours of after surviving a blinding rainstorm in one of his least favorite planes, a vintage of 1860, he wrote. He had only gone about an hour when big black clouds began to fill STEARNS From Page One TRAMONTANA BREEZE PHOTO BY ROBERT EMERSON HEATH KIEON, left, and JOSH DIDICK, of Total Landscaping, transporting the memorial stone on their Toro Dingo on May 9. Continues on next page Hallworth House 66 Benefit Street Providence, RI 02904 401-274-4505 Caregivers need a break? We offer extended short-term care… • Overnight 2-14 day stays available • skilled nursing • Dynamic city views • Long-term care Located on the East Side of Historic Providence just minutes from University Heights CareLink 595 Washington Street South Attleboro, MA (508) 761-6900 Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Place your order on-line and pick-up at our convenient drive-up window Enjoy Outdoor Dining & Cocktails on Our Newly Renovated Patio WE OFFER IT ALL! 12 Salads Daily Chef Specials Burgers Pizza Dinner Entrees Pasta

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