In the middle of St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Lowell, just to the left of the chapel, sits a large rectangular piece of granite inscribed in memory of the graduates of Keith Academy who died while serving in the military during World War II.
Located in the former Middlesex County jail on Thorndike Street, Keith Academy was opened in the 1920s by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston as a high school for boys. The school graduated its first class in 1930 and closed in the early 1970s, however, its legacy continues at Lowell Catholic High School.
When you are inside St. Patrick’s Cemetery, the Keith Academy memorial is hard to miss. I’ve read the names many times but didn’t know anything more about the men listed on the stone. So this year, I dug into the records and learned the following:
Donald M. Adie was the son of John P. Adie and Jessie Adie of 26 Otis Street which is off Moore Street in the Sacred Heart neighborhood. Born on October 4, 1919, Donald was one of four brothers. After graduating from Keith Academy, he enrolled in Lowell Textile Institute. When World War II began, he became an officer in the United States Navy and was assigned to the U.S.S. Barton, a destroyer that was commissioned at Quincy, Massachusetts, in January 1942. The Barton set sail for the Pacific in August 1942. On the evening of November 12, 1942, the Barton was one of a dozen U.S. cruisers and destroyers sent to intercept a larger Japanese Naval force that was heading towards Guadalcanal, the island recently captured by U.S. Marines. Because of the extreme darkness and heavy rain squalls that night, the two columns of ships did not see each other until nearly colliding head on. In the ensuing melee, Barton was hit by two Japanese torpedoes which cut the destroyer in half. Both portions of the ship sunk almost immediately with the loss of 164 of the ship’s 232 man crew. Ensign Adie was among those lost at sea. His name appears on a memorial tablet in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.
Robert E. Balfrey was the son of John and Mary Balfrey, both immigrants from Ireland. The family lived at 11 Congress Street. Robert was born on September 19, 1917 and had three older siblings. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was trained as an aviation machinist’s mate. He was a crew member on a bomber based on the aircraft carrier Belleau Wood. On January 30, 1944, while supporting the invasion of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, Balfrey was killed when his aircraft was shot down.
Edward A. Barry was born on July 4, 1918, the son of William Barry of 332 Wentworth Avenue. In October 1940 when Edward registered for the draft, he was a student at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on April 29, 1942. Trained as a navigator, we was assigned to a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. On February 24, 1944 while on a bombing mission over Gotha, Germany, Barry’s plane was attacked by enemy fighters. The bomber exploded in midair, killing all aboard. Barry is memorialized at the Lorraine American Cemetery.
William J. Coffey Jr. was the son of William and Ethel Coffey of 660 Bridge Street. He had two younger siblings, Richard and Beverly. William entered the U.S. Army Air Corps and was assigned to Page Field at Fort Myers, Florida, for training. On March 23, 1943, he married Ann O’Sullivan of Tewksbury, a graduate of Keith Hall, at the post chapel. Upon the completion of his training, William was assigned to the 552nd Bomber Squadron in England as the navigator/bombardier on a B-26 medium bomber. On September 9, 1943, while bombing shore defenses on the French coast, Coffey’s plane was shot down by antiaircraft fire. Two crew members bailed out and were taken prisoner but the other four crew members, including Lieutenant Coffey, were killed in the crash. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
Daniel P. Cooney was born in Lowell on January 2, 1919. He lived with his parents, Alfred J. and Margaret (Redding) Cooney at 68 Mt. Grove Street. When he registered for the draft, he was working at the Charlestown Navy Yard. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on January 27, 1943 and served throughout the war. He was discharged from the service on January 8, 1946, but then reenlisted three months later. He was assigned to a mission in Brazil where, on July 31, 1946, he was killed in an accident.
Thomas F. Cryan was born on June 10, 1920, the son of John P. and Anna Gertrude Cryan. He had six brothers (James, Arthur, John, Francis, Paul and Gerald) and two sisters (Eileen and Catherine). The family lived at 59 Temple Street. Cryan was a student at Lowell Textile Institute when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on January 15, 1942. He trained as a pilot and was the co-pilot of a B-17 flying a bombing raid over Augsburg, Germany. On that mission, Lt. Cryan’s aircraft collided with another, causing both planes to crash and killing all aboard. Crya’s body was recovered and returned to the United States in 1949. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
James L. Farley was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Farley of 91 Bellevue Street. He was educated at the Bartlett Junior High School and Keith Academy. He worked for the Lowell Gas Company before enlisting in the Massachusetts Army National Guard in March 1941. He was assigned to Lowell-based Company C of the 182nd Infantry Regiment. Farley’s unit was mobilized as soon as war broke out and was shipped to the Pacific. In the fall of 1942, the 182nd arrived on Guadalcanal to replace the Marines who had invaded and were fighting for the island. It was on Guadalcanal that Farley was killed in action on November 20, 1942. After the war, the intersection of Lillian and Kathletta streets was dedicated by the city of Lowell as James Farley Square.
Chester L. Gearty was born on November 8, 1925, and lived at 122 Grove Ave in Wilmington, Mass. with his family. While still a student at Keith Academy, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was eventually assigned to the 460th Bomb Group of the 15th Army Air Force based in Spinazzola, Italy as a tail gunner on a B-24 heavy bomber. However, soon after his arrival in Italy, Gearty transferred to a special operations aviation squadron that flew similar planes on missions in support of Yugoslavian partisans and their British special forces liaisons. On one such mission on the evening of October 16, 1944, in darkness and very low visibility, Gearty’s plane slammed into a mountain near the drop zone killing all aboard. The partisans waiting for the drop recovered the bodies of the American flyers. Sgt Gearty’s remains were returned to the United States in 1949. He is buried in the Wildwood Cemetery in Wilmington.
Joseph F. Harley was born in Lowell on January 23, 1924. He became a U.S. Army Air Force pilot and served in the Chinese theater of operations where he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and several honors from the Chinese government. Before shipping out from the United States, Harley married Dorothy Searns of Gorham. N.H. Their daughter Carol was born in 1943. At the end of the war, Lieutenant Harley was assigned to an air base in San Antonio, Texas. On August 25, 1946, while driving from San Antonio to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to ferry a plane to New England and then return to San Antonio with his wife and daughter, Lt. Harley was killed in a motor vehicle accident. Besides his wife and daughter, he was survived by his mother, Mrs. Margaret Harley of 76 West Forest Street and a brother Philip and a sister Phyllis, all of Lowell.
John J. Hurley Jr. was born in Lowell on February 14, 1922. He lived at 216 Thorndike Street with his parents, John J. and Mary E. Hurley. When he registered for the draft in June 1942, he was working at General Electric in Lynn. He enlisted in the Army in October 1942 and entered the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) at Hendricks College in Arkansas. ASTP was intended to quickly train soldiers to be junior officers or technical specialists. By 1944, however, the need for combat troops was so pressing that the Army transferred many in the program to units heading overseas. Consequently, Hurley was assigned as an infantryman in the 393rd Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division. The division arrived in Europe in October 1944 and by December was in the line in the Ardennes Forrest of Belgium. There, the division faced the full weight of the German attack in the Battle of the Bulge, suffering heavy casualties which included Sgt. Hurley who was killed in action on January 1, 1945. He is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.
Joseph F. Keefe was born in Lowell on March 15, 1923. He lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Keefe at 119 Fifth Ave. On the draft registration card he filled out in June 1942, Joseph stated that he worked for the Bogen Tenenbaum Company on Jackson Street (which made leather jackets for the military). Joseph enlisted in the Navy, was trained as a torpedo man, and was assigned to PT Boat Squadron 8 which operated in New Guinea in the South Pacific. On March 27, 1944, Keefe was killed in combat. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Mammoth Road and Fifth Avenue Joseph F. Keefe Square.
Robert A. Lamarine was born in Lowell on March 7, 1924. He lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur S. Lamarine, at 55 Blodgett Street. He entered the United States Army in June 1943 and was assigned to Troop G, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He was fatally wounded in combat in New Guinea and died in a hospital there on March 6, 1944. He is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Chelmsford. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Blodgett and Midland Streets Robert Lamarine Square.
Christopher Makris was born in 1925 and lived with his parents, Anthony and Paraskevy Makris at 52 Suffolk Street. He joined the Navy and was assigned to a 28-man Navy detachment onboard the SS Robin Goodfellow, a 6,800 ton merchant steamer that was launched in 1920. On the evening of July 25, 1944, the ship was torpedoed by German submarine U-862 while sailing from Cape Town, South Africa, to New York City by way of Brazil with a load of chrome ore. The entire 41-man Merchant Marine crew and all 28 Navy gunners perished when the ship sank. Seaman Makris is memorialized at the North African American Cemetery and Memorial, Carthage, Tunisia.
Arthur F. Noel Jr. was born on December 2, 1921. He lived with his parents, Arthur and Jennie Noel at 14 Alder Street. He graduated from Keith Academy and attended Lowell Commercial College for a year before joining the U.S. Army Air Force where he trained as a pilot. On June 26, 1942, just before shipping out for overseas duty, Arthur married Mary Winifred Currie of Lowell. Arthur was assigned to the 154th Reconnaissance Squadron where he flew specially outfitted P-38 fighter planes on photographic and weather reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean Theater. On one such mission over South Africa on March 29, 1944, Lieutenant Noel’s plane went down. Neither the plane nor his remains were ever located. Arthur Noel is memorialized at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Andover and Nesmith Streets Arthur F. Noel Square.
James S. O’Rourke was born on December 26, 1914. He was listed in the 1940 census as a “U.S. Navy officer on ship” with an official address at the home of his widowed mother, Mary O’Rourke, at 28 Burlington Avenue in Lowell. In 1942, his ship was sunk off the Philippines but he was rescued by the Japanese and imprisoned in a POW camp in the Philippines. Two years later with the Americans advancing, the Japanese loaded all of the prisoners from that camp on a cargo ship named the Oryoku Maru which set sail for another POW camp. While underway on December 14, 1944, the ship was attacked by U.S. Navy planes from the aircraft carrier Hornet. The pilots of the planes did not know that the ship carried American POWs so they sunk it. Lieutenant O’Rourke and 300 other prisoners were lost. James O’Rourke is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery.
Edwin T. Riley was the son of Mr. And Mrs. Bernard J. Riley of 2 Davis Terrace. Riley was a graduate of Keith Academy, class of 1930, and worked at the Tewksbury State Hospital before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps. Assigned to an air base near Memphis, Tennessee, with the Fourth Ferrying Group, Riley was killed in a jeep accident on January 1, 1944.
Herbert W. Roberts Jr. was born in Lowell on February 21, 1921. When the 1940 census was taken, he lived with his mother, Marion Roberts at 35 Burtt Street. In 1942 married Grace Buchannan of Lowell. They had a son, Bruce W. Roberts. Herbert enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and became a gunner on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber with the 735th Bomb Squadron. While on a training flight over Wyoming on August 14, 1943, his plane struck a mountainside and exploded, killing all aboard. The remains of Sgt Roberts were recovered and he is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Lowell.
James Smith was born on July 25, 1920. His parents, Phillip H. and Anna S. Smith, lived at 466 East Merrimack Street. Prior to entering the service in 1943, Smith worked for the Lowell Sun. After enlisting in the Army, he was assigned to an infantry unit and arrived in Europe in May 1944. He saw heavy fighting and was wounded in France. After recovering from his wounds he returned to the line and on January 14, 1945, was killed in action in Belgium. His body was returned to Lowell and he is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
George J. Tracy Jr. was born in Lowell in 1919 to George J. and Lilla M. Tracy. In 1938, George enlisted in the Navy and eventually was assigned to flight training. After becoming a pilot, he was assigned the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Belleau Wood where he flew a Hellcat fighter. On March 1, 1945, while attacking Honshu, Japan, Lieutenant Tracy’s plane was shot down and he was declared missing in action. On March 2, 1946, his status was changed to killed in action. He is memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial. In 1947, the city of Lowell dedicated the intersection of Mammoth Road and Third Avenue, George Tracy Square.
John J. Twohey was born in Lowell on October 21, 1925, to William and Mary Twohey of 11 Blossom Street. When John completed his draft registration card in October 1943, he was 18 years old, still living at home, and worked in Billerica at the Billerica Car Shops. He entered the Army on December 21, 1943 and after basic training he was shipped to Europe and assigned to the 180th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. He was killed in action of October 17, 1944, in the Vosges region of France.
Frederic L. Webster Jr. was born in Lowell on January 31, 1920. His parents, Frederick and Katherine Webster, lived at 167 D Street. According to the draft registration card he completed in July 1941, he was 21 years old and had just completed his second year at Lowell Textile Institute. He entered the Navy as a commissioned officer and was sent to flight school in Florida. On his final training flight on July 5, 1943, he was killed when his plane crashed. His remains were returned to Lowell for a funeral at St. Margaret’s Church. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.