Lincoln remembers service
LINCOLN — The Lincoln Historical Society’s latest exhibit is full of familiar names and faces: those of neighbors, brothers, fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. For each one there are many other men and women who’ve represented Addison County in the armed forces.
Ask Norman Steadman, the curator at the historical society’s museum, and he’ll tell you that these are the faces of service, the embodiment of the sacrifices that Addison County residents have made for their families, towns and country over the decades.
Steadman’s is among the faces in photographs of these soldiers lining a small room in the 88 Quaker St. museum. In one photo, some 50 years younger and in uniform, Steadman eyes the camera straight on with the single-mindedness that propelled him out of airplanes with the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1950s.
Steadman served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, though his tour of duty never took him overseas. Decades later, his interests have shifted from army exercises to archival work, and for the last 11 years the Ferrisburgh resident, who has longtime familial ties to Lincoln, has acted as the curator of the Lincoln museum.
It was last summer that Steadman decided to craft a new exhibit at the small-town museum centered on the idea of service. At the time, he didn’t intend to focus solely on the armed forces, and wanted to pay tribute to the diverse ways in which neighbors help their communities: as teachers, nurses, firefighters or politicians.
Then came the uniforms, tarnished medals, and old photographs, and slowly the exhibit began to take shape.
For Steadman, the exhibit is an important step toward keeping alive the memories of wars that are fading from collective memory. He recalled watching an episode of the TV show “Jeopardy” a few months ago when the young contestants couldn’t name one of the two main countries the United States fought against in World War II.
“How can they not know?” Steadman said.
Some items on display were plucked from the historical society’s standing collection, like Lincoln resident Earl Walter Siple’s World War I uniform and gas mask. Others trickled in after Steadman and other members of the historical society put out the call last summer for material for the exhibit.
Among the local residents who answered the call for artifacts was Peg Rood. Her World War II-era Marine Corps Women’s Reserve uniform is on display in the exhibit, as is the Air Force jacket her late husband, Ronald Rood, wore during the war. Ronald Rood was a fighter pilot during the war, and married Peg in 1942; 11 years later they moved to Lincoln, where Peg still lives.
Steadman’s family also offered memorabilia for the exhibit. His Air Force portrait is nestled among those of other relatives, including his cousin, Vergennes resident William Lee Steadman. A career Air Force man, William Steadman retired as a lieutenant colonel after serving in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He flew more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam.
Near the photographs lies the ration book that Norman Steadman’s father was issued during World War II. Steadman was the 12th of 13 children in his family, and remembers running down to the corner store as a boy to sell bacon fat during the war. He also kept the Christmas greeting that his brother, a solider in Italy, posted from the European theater.
Other artifacts include a Civil War bayonet; medals from the Spanish American War and the Indian Wars; an early, hand-written honor roll of the servicemen from Lincoln who fought during World War II; and various newspaper clippings from past wars. In one, 44 men from Addison County pose in front of Middlebury’s railroad depot after being inducted into the Army on Sept. 5, 1942.
Another clipped article commemorates the life of James N. Beane, who was born in Lincoln. Beane fought in the Indian Wars and the Boxer Rebellion, and was a member of the expedition sent to the Arctic to search for the remains of Sir John Franklin and ships lost around 1850.
Missing from the exhibit are traces of modern conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, and Steadman said he’s hoping to find a Vermonter “who gave the ultimate sacrifice” to profile in memory of these wars.
He ruminated that remembering the wars of the past brings into focus just how confusing today’s conflicts abroad can be.
“These wars, we knew what we were up against,” Steadman said, looking at the photographs of his family in uniform. “The wars now, we don’t know who the enemy even is.”
The Lincoln Historical Society museum is open on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free and the museum is handicap-accessible.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].