Milford’s World War II park will be renovated

MILFORD – He was one of our boys, but he wasn’t a boy. Robert Titus Phillips was a 40-year-old soldier, doctor and the father of four children when he was taken prisoner by the Japanese Army in 1942.

Major Phillips was in the Army Medical Corps and had risked his life to forage for food for the men in his charge on Bataan in the Philippine Islands. For those acts of bravery, he was promoted from captain to major.

Then on Sept. 1, 1942, he died from malaria and malnutrition.

Phillips was among the 534 men and 19 women from Milford who served their country in World War II, and one of 13 men who did not come home.

After the war, their sacrifices were honored in the town’s World War II Memorial Park at the corner of Elm and Union streets with the planting of 13 arborvitae trees.

In 1994, a memorial wall was erected that included the names of all 553 men and women and a brick walkway and granite benches were installed, led by the efforts of then-Police Chief Steve Sexton.

Over the years, the Milford Garden Club has cared for the park, but plantings have deteriorated and the trees need pruning.

The 13 arborvitae are at the end of their life span and at almost 30 feet, they are considered dangerously tall. And the memorial wall needs cleaning.

Nothing on the wall

But most importantly, there is nothing on the wall that lets people know the names of the 13 men who died, including Hartley William Harley and Howard Sanford, whose names were linked to form the name of Milford’s Harley-Sanford Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Harley and Sanford were the first Milford men killed.

Along with Dr. Phillips, the others were Carl Kenneth Bowen Jr., Theodore Everett Hutchinson, John Henry Keddy, George Warren Kimball, William Wallace Girardin Maxwell, Harry Alfred Parker, James Joseph Picard, Leroy Alfred Smith, Raymond Louise Smith and Alan Edward Stitham.

Starting soon

The park’s problems will be rectified, though, by a committee whose park revitalization project will soon be underway.

The DPW will remove the arborvitae and they will be replaced with smaller varieties, trees will be pruned and gold stars will be engraved next to the names of the 13 servicemen who died.

On Sunday, Sept. 7, there will be a rededication ceremony at the park. Carolina Lambalot, of the Garden Club, is looking for soldiers’ relatives to invite to the ceremony.

“It’s long overdue,” Wendy Hunt, Milford Improvement Team director, told selectmen last month. “People pass by every day and don’t realize the significance of the park.”

Along with Hunt and Lambalot, the World War II Memorial Park Committee members are Frances Borostyan, of the Milford Garden Club, Bob Courage, retired Milford public works director, Polly Cote, of the Milford Historical Society, Liz Craighead, of the town parks department, Doug Bianchi of the VFW, and Michael McInerney of the town’s communications department.