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102-Year-Old Vet Brings WWII Monument To Westminster

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Artie Aiken sits behind the granite World War II monument he helped bring to Westminster.

There are some benefits to being 102 years old. Generally, when you have an idea you can find people willing to give you a hand.

So when Artie Aiken went before the Westminster Institute board of trustees and said he wanted to display a World War II plaque the institute had stored away the board got behind the idea.

At a Veterans Day ceremony Wednesday, Aiken helped present the new granite monument to the town.

He'd been waiting a long time to make this happen.

Aiken grew up in Westminster and at some point after the war, Aiken and a friend talked local officials into getting a plaque with the names of the 71 Westminster residents who served in World War II.

Over the years, it ended up inside the Westminster Institute, an historic building in the center of the village that has a small library and community space.

It went from a wall, down to the floor and ultimately was put away, out of sight.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / vpr
Artie Aiken, 102, helped raise about $3,000 to fund a new granite World War II monument, and flagpole, at the Westminster Institute. Aiken also donated $50 to the work.

"It kicked around on the floor until they got sick of it. And then they stuck it way up in the corner and nobody ever knew where it was. It's been on my nerve for a long time," Aiken says.

Back when he was a younger man he thought it was important to have the names of those Westminster residents out in the open for people to see and think about.

And now that he's into his second century he sees more of a need to remember.

"I know a lot of them, because I worked with them. I've seen them everyday," he says. "They're all gone, and I'm still here. It's hard to figure that out. And I'm glad it's all done, and it's sitting over there for anyone to look at now."

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / vpr
Chris Harlow reads the names of the Westminster residents on the WW II plaque as Artie Aiken looks on.

Jim Grout, a member of the Westminster Institute board of trustees, said Aiken attended a meeting in August and made a passionate plea for getting the plaque back out where people can see it.

"Artie is a marvel. His role in making this happen was remarkable," Grout says. "The board loved the idea. How could you not?"

"They're all gone, and I'm still here. It's hard to figure that out. And I'm glad it's all done, and it's sitting over there for anyone to look at now." - Artie Aiken

Grout and Greg Holton helped track down some grants and donations and it became apparent that they were going to be able help Aiken see his idea thorough.

Aiken insisted on donating $50.

The board didn't know the monument and flagpole would be in place before Veterans Day, but it all came together quickly and a ceremony was planned.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / vpr
A member of American Legion Post 37 from Bellows Falls blows Taps at the end of the Veterans Day ceremony in Westminster.

The Kurn Hattin Choir sang the national anthem, Aiken said a few words and the names of all the Westminster residents on the monument were read aloud.

"I'm glad I opened my mouth when I did," Aiken says. "I wanted to get that plaque out of that building where folks could see it."

Aiken was very grateful for all of the work that went into getting the stone and flagpole in place.

He was also impressed with the heft of the granite, and he said it was sure to stand long after he was gone.

But it still kind of bugged him that it took so long.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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