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A bridge with no name for now

BRATTLEBORO—The newly constructed bridge on Western Avenue next to the Creamery Bridge needs a name.

The Selectboard intends to choose one from a list of 25 at its Oct. 5 meeting. Residents submitted name suggestions over the course of a month. The suggestion process has since closed.

The Selectboard planned to choose a name at its Sept. 21 meeting but decided to table the issue until absent member Martha O’Connor returned.

“I’ve received as many e-mails about this [bridge naming] as any other issue in town,” said Selectboard member Daryl Pillsbury.

Suggested names had to meet 9-1-1 dispatch criteria for consideration.

Names not making the cut: names that duplicated another place in town like “Living Memorial Park Bridge,” were too long like “Brand New Bridge to My House on Guilford Street/Sucks to Be You” or names that had alliteration that could prove difficult for dispatchers like “The New Whey,” said Town Manager Barbara Sondag.

“Some people think it should be nameless. It took me aback,” said Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray.

DeGray suggested calling the bridge “Citizens Bridge,” where names of the honored could be added to a plaque on the bridge over time.

“I like the opportunity of giving the bridge multiple names of people who are here or in the future. We have a lot of people in town who are heroes in their own right,” said DeGray.

Selectboard Vice-Chair Dora Bouboulis said she’s a little “leery” of naming the bridge after a person, because a lot of people get left out of the decision.

Approximately seven family and friends attended the Sept. 22 Selectboard meeting to show support for naming the bridge after Army Capt. Frederick J. Giroux, a Brattleboro resident who died as a prisoner of war in April 1951.

Giroux, said supporters, served as an infantry officer in the Third Army during World War II. He received numerous combat decorations, including a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Distinguished Service Cross — a award second only to the Medal of Honor for valor in battle.

That medal was presented for Giroux’s action in battle in August 1944 in Amanvillers, France. According to Army records, Giroux fearlessly exposed himself to intense enemy small arms, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire to rescue a number of wounded men. It was personally presented to Giroux by Gen. George S. Patton.

Giroux returned to Brattleboro and his family after the war. When the Korean Conflict broke out in 1950, he re-enlisted. Giroux was seriously wounded and captured in Korea in November 1950, after his infantry company was overrun by Chinese troops. He was tortured and later died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.  

Sam Haskins, of VFW Post 1034, said he noticed that most of the names on the approved list were former paid town employees.

“I hope they did their jobs above and beyond as public employees. The captain [Giroux] put his life on the line in World War II, and then volunteered to go back to Korea,” he said

DeGray said he appreciated the people advocating for Giroux adding the bridge naming shouldn’t be a contest. He encouraged people to contact the Selectboard and say if they wanted the bridge named for a person, “Citizens Bridge” or not named at all.

“[The names] have different meanings to different people,” said DeGray.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #69 (Wednesday, September 29, 2010).

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