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John B. DeValles Elementary Holds Rededication Ceremony

Major General Gary Keefe of the Mass. National Guard (left) stands at attention with Mayor Jon Mitchell and students during unveiling of historic bronze relief of DeValle. Tim Dunn/TSM.
Major General Gary Keefe of the Mass. National Guard (left) stands at attention with Mayor Jon Mitchell and students during unveiling of historic bronze relief of DeValle. Tim Dunn/TSM.

NEW BEDFORD – A rededication ceremony took place at John B. DeValles Elementary School on Wednesday morning to honor the school’s namesake, Rev. John Baptist DeValles.

Officials from the Massachusetts National Guard joined Mayor Jon Mitchell and Superintendent Pia Durkin and observed the heroic actions of Rev. DeValles as a non-combatant Army Chaplain during World War I.

Major General of the Massachusetts National Guard Gary Keefe told stories about DeValles’ extraordinary heroism, like how during a 1917 battle when DeValles worked around the clock transporting dead and wounded men, both allied and German, to safety under torrential enemy fire.

“Carrying wounded back from the battlefield and back to the medical centers to the point that his hands were bleeding. He broke down a couple times, his body gave out on him but he never stopped,” Major General Keefe explained. “Even after he was ordered to get to the rear, he refused the order and still went back into battle to help the wounded.”

Following remarks from Mayor Mitchell and other elected officials, Major General Keefe unveiled a historic bronze relief of DeValles. The Major General later led a presentation of Devalles’ military medals from the war that ended 99 years ago. Lieutenant John B. DeValles earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest honor a member of the U.S. military can receive next to the Medal of Honor for his immense bravery in battle. He earned the Croix de Guerre (French Cross of War) for his support of allied and enemy wounded troops under constant enemy fire. DeValles was also awarded a World War I victory medal.

Major General Gary Keefe and Mayor Jon Mitchell during the presentation of DeValles' military medals. Mayor Mitchell is holding DeValles' Distinguished Service Cross. Tim Dunn/TSM.
Major General Gary Keefe and Mayor Jon Mitchell during the presentation of DeValles’ military medals. Mayor Mitchell is holding DeValles’ Distinguished Service Cross. Tim Dunn/TSM.

“I’m immensely proud to be here and standing here talking about him because they gave him the proper name,” said DeValles’ second cousin Eileen Fernandes. “He really was the ‘Angel of the Trenches’ during that war in France,” she said.

The ceremony finished with the official rededication of the school in DeValles’ name by Mayor Jon Mitchell.

“Sometimes the names of buildings or deeds of people from 100 years ago can seem really abstract, especially to kids,” Mayor Mitchell said. “This was an exercise to remind them of how heroic Father DeValles was and why he’s so deserving of emulation today.”

The event also included the landing of a Black Hawk Helicopter and additional displays of National Guard howitzers, HUMVEES, and the Guard’s mobile STEM (Strength Through Technology) classroom.

Black Hawk Helicopter put on display during the ceremony by National Guard. Tim Dunn/TSM.
Black Hawk Helicopter put on display during the ceremony by National Guard. Tim Dunn/TSM.

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