Cemetery Commission gives Housatonic man the OK to recognize Medal of Honor recipient

Frederick Nelson Deland is buried in Mahaiwe Cemetery in Great Barrington. (Emily Thurlow)

GREAT BARRINGTON — A recipient of the country’s highest award for bravery during Civil War combat is buried in town and Housatonic resident Andy Moro wants to make sure that achievement is recognized.
During a Wednesday, March 4 meeting of the Great Barrington Cemetery Commission, Moro came before the group asking for support for commemorating Medal of Honor recipient, Frederick Nelson Deland.
“To know that caliber is buried in our community …” Moro said at the meeting. “It’s extremely rare. … We need to honor that.”
Deland, a native of Sheffield, is listed as a recipient of the Medal of Honor on his tombstone and had enlisted in the 49th Massachusetts Infantry. He was awarded with the Medal of Honor on June 22, 1896 for his actions during the Siege of Port Hudson in Louisiana on May 27, 1863, according to information provided by Moro.
As a veterans grave officer, former vice commander of Housatonic American Legion Chap. 298 and Marine Corps veteran, being able to recognize Deland is especially important, says Moro. While going through Mahaiwe Cemetery, also known as South Cemetery, on Silver Street, making sure that all of the veterans had proper gravemarkers, he noticed a placard for W.E.B. Du Bois’ wife.
The placard was erected by the Great Barrington Historical Society in 1994 and bears the quote attributed to Du Bois, premier architect of the American Civil Rights Movement: “In 1950, the month of February had for me special meaning. I was a widower. The wife of 53 years lay buried in the New England hills beside her first-born boy.”
In the past, Moro had been outspoken about not wanting the town to erect a statue to Du Bois, calling the idea “an insult to all veterans who served our country and community with honor.”
In an interview with this newspaper prior to the meeting, Moro said that he didn’t want to have his feelings with regard to Du Bois taint the commemoration of Deland, but felt it important that Deland receive a similar honor with a placard.
“We have nothing that honors our Medal of Honor recipient,” he said in an interview.
During the March 4 meeting, Cemetery Commission Chairperson Walter “Buddy” Atwood III told Moro that as long as that support that he was seeking was not financial, he didn’t see an issue. Moro clarified that he sought the board’s blessing to install signage while seeking assistance from area veterans organizations to fund the endeavor.
The commission unanimously voted in favor of granting Moro their support. Cemetery Commissioner Ed Abrahams noted that he had mentioned this to members of the Select Board as well and potentially hosting a ceremony for the commemoration when the time comes.
Having served on a number of town boards throughout his life, Moro said that his role he’s held especially dear was that of his role as veterans grave officer.
“People need to know that there was someone here before them and did things to make it so that we can live the way that we do. Somebody’s got to make sure people know,” he said in an interview. “And we have a Medal of Honor recipient, we have one here in our town. It’s unbelievable. They don’t just give them away.”

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