- Jane Lachance holds a photo of the final resting place of Staff Seargant Donald Fletcher Davis Sunday, April 29, 2012. SSG. Davis died June 29, 1945 and is buried Manila American Cemetery in the Philipines
- Jane Lachance salutes the American flag during the Posting of Colors at the VFW Post 483 Hall Sunday, April 29, 2012. Lachance's uncle, Staff Sargeant Donald Fletcher Davis was honored posthumously with a Bronze Star.
- Nashua police officer Jeffery Connors holds the award for Nashua Police Officer of the Year. Firefighters, police and servicemen and women were honored at the Loyalty Day ceremony at VFW Post 483, Sunday, April 29, 2012.
- VFW Post 483 in Nashua hosts Loyalty Day, Sunday, April 29, 2012. Included in the ceremony was a posthumous awarding of a Bronze Star to Staff Sargeant Donald Fletcher Davis.
- Jane Lachance holds the Bronze Star awarded to Staff Seargant Donald Fletcher Davis Sunday, April 29, 2012. Senator Jeanne Shaheen was unable to present the award, but a representative was present to read a letter from from the senator to Lachance.
Nashua woman’s efforts restore Bronze Star for late relative
Had it not been for Jane Lachance’s perseverance and some timely legwork by aides to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the fire that destroyed millions of U.S. military records 40 years ago may have kept World War II Staff Sgt. Donald F. Davis’ Bronze Star a secret forever.
Eager recently to learn more about the uncle she never met, Lachance, a 63-year-old Nashua resident, set out in search of anything she could find about Davis, an Army man who was 27 when he died while serving in Luzon, the Philippines, three years before Lachance was born.
The trail led her to Shaheen aide Bethany Yurek, who traced Davis to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, the 150-acre military burial ground where Davis was laid to rest shortly after his death on June 29, 1945. Even better, Lachance said, Yurek was able to help confirm that her uncle was awarded the Bronze Star, an honor presented to soldiers for “heroic or meritorious achievement.”
During an emotional few minutes Sunday, Lachance was presented a replica of that Bronze Star by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 483 member Lewis Chipola, who arranged for the purchase of the replacement medal and added the posthumous honor to Sunday’s annual Loyalty Day observance. The hour-long program also honored this year’s police officer, firefighter and emergency medical technician of the year, along with the Youth of the Year, Citizen of the Year and two recipients of special Americanism awards.
“This is one of our greatest events of the year,” said Betty Belanger, Post 483 women’s auxiliary president. “We love honoring those who protect us, those who go the extra mile for us and make Nashua the wonderful city it is.”
Officer Jeffrey Connors, a six-year Army reservist and Nashua police officer for more than 20 years, was named this year’s Police Officer of the Year.
“Jeff does outstanding work, and he does it every day,” police Capt. Jeff Bukunt said in presenting the award. He cited Connors’ deep involvement in causes like Cops for Kids with Cancer, his two lifesaving awards and his success in expanding the department’s citizen Crimewatch program, which Connors, a crime prevention specialist, has overseen since 2010.
Devoting many hours to fundraising and humanitarian causes – and coming to the rescue of a stranded horse last year – led to the selection of Nashua Fire Rescue Lt. Nathan Armstrong as this year’s Firefighter of the Year.
Armstrong praised his family for the support while he pursues his fundraising endeavors.
“These accolades regarding my fundraising efforts mean a lot of sacrifice for my family,” he told the group. “I appreciate their support.”
Armstrong is a leading fundraiser for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, mainly through benefit hockey games he organizes. Last year, he raised $5,000.
On a day off last summer, Armstrong, a Hollis resident, hitched up his horse trailer and responded to the F.E. Everett Turnpike, where a horse was stranded after being rescued from a burning trailer. He brought the horse home to his family’s farm while arrangements were being made.
EMT of the Year Shawn Buxton’s award was accepted on his behalf by co-worker Candace Tenburg. Buxton, an EMT with American Medical Response, is away on active National Guard duty, officials told the group.
Named Youth of the Year was Nashua High School South senior Paul Duclos, who in May will compete for the state Boys & Girls Club youth of the year after becoming the Nashua club’s winner in March.
Belanger cited the hard times and family illness through which Duclos persevered. Through it all, Belanger said, “this young man decided to succeed, not fall by the wayside.” Duclos introduced his mother, who he said is currently in remission in her battle with cervical cancer.
Karen McAdam, an air traffic controller who devotes time to the VFW, the local soup kitchen, fundraising walks and the Alvirne High School swim team, was named the Citizen of the Year.
The VFW named Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and Gregory J., a Nashua flooring design center, the recipients of their Americanism awards.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the VFW,” she said, adding that they and other local military organizations “take time throughout the year to find ways to give back and right missing wrongs.”
Lachance, meanwhile, said she always wondered about her uncle. “I just wanted to know more about him,” Lachance said Sunday, seated with her husband, Arthur, and Yurek among the dozens of participants. She said 1945 was difficult for her grandfather, Richard E. Davis, who also lost his wife that year.
Yates said she contacted the cemetery, which provided a large photo of the grounds and a close-up of the cross marking Davis’ grave.
Lachance and her husband stared at the medal after receiving it, along with a framed certificate. “I’m very proud of my uncle, even though I didn’t get to meet him,” she said.
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.