Heroism transcends several generations, Liam Opie noted as the American Legion Post 67 honored the life of Edward Lopeman, after whom the local post office is named, and the lives (2,977 fatalities) on 9/11 from terrorist attacks in 2001.
A brief ceremony was held at Forest Hills Cemetery on Kansas Road on Sunday morning. Opie, the first lieutenant in command of the post, read the following memorial speech:
Good morning friends from Bridgeton.
Memory is the one word that describes our event today, so this speech comes with a history that goes back a hundred years. It doesn’t start where you might think it would. Actually, let’s travel back to the Bridgton of the past, to the year 1895 to be precise. In that year a little child was born who was destined by destiny to be a hero. His name was Edward Lopeman.
Lopeman was born in Bridgton on September 16, 1895, the third of nine children of William and Rose (Douglass) Lopeman. Edward’s father William was born in St. John, New Brunswick to Irish immigrants. His mother’s side was deeply rooted in West Bridgeton. Edward’s uncle, Samuel Douglass, served as a carter in Georgia during the Spanish-American War. His maternal grandfather, Daniel Hill Douglass, fought in Company G of the 11th Maine Infantry during the Civil War and was wounded. This grandfather and uncle are also buried in the upper left corner of this cemetery. From the birth of our free nation, Edward Lopeman had ancestors who bore arms for the United States. His great-great-grandfather, John Douglass, was a Revolutionary War veteran and served in the Massachusetts 13th Infantry from 1779-1782.
Edward himself continued his maternal family’s tradition of military service. He enlisted in Norway, Maine on June 21, 1916 to serve with Company D, Second Maine Infantry Regiment. He served four months on active duty on the Mexico border in Laredo, Texas and was retired from active duty in Augusta in October of the same year. He remained with his National Guard long enough to be re-commissioned to active duty after the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. The company first served in Saco shortly after joining the 103rd Infantry Regiment. On May 4, he was promoted to private first class. After a few months in the US, Edward left “Over There” for France on September 25th. He was part of the 26th “Yankee” Division, which was among the first American soldiers to reach the front lines.
Edward served gallantly for the next nine months. While fighting near Champagne-Marne, he was gassed near Saint Agnant. He was taken to the hospital and recovered in time to join his unit for the Battle of Aisne-Marne. Unfortunately, Private First Class Lopeman was killed in action on July 20, 1918, making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He was originally buried in France, but in 1921 his remains were returned to his hometown of Maine. Edward Lopeman is now buried with his parents and siblings in Forest Hill Cemetery in Bridgton.
Based on his service records, Edward Lopeman was eligible for two Purple Heart awards, the Mexican Border Service Medal and the World War One Victory Medal with the Battle Clasps of Champagne-Marne and Aisne-Marne.
Like so many others, Edward Lopeman was buried abroad in France. However, the Lopeman family would see to it that he came home. In late August 1921, his remains were brought back from “Over There” and placed back on American soil.
Knowing the importance of remembrance, Bridgton’s biennial post in the American Legion rose to honor their fallen comrade. You weren’t alone when the city came out to honor this hero. Let me share some brief details about the Lopeman memorial that took place on September 11, 1921, exactly 101 years ago. At 9:30 a.m. his coffin lay at City Hall on North High Street, guarded by members of the American Legion. Flowers were laid around him and flags were flown at half-mast across the city. At 2:30 p.m., public services began for him, led by several ministers of the gospel. After prayers and presentations of his military service, it was time to take Edward Lopeman to his final resting place.
He was brought to this location in an open wagon, escorted by the Legion and several other orders, such as the Grand Army of the Republic and the Independent Order of Red Men. Noble veterans and goodwill organizations like these two had come to support this young man.
A minute’s silence was offered at the grave, a rifle squad saluted appropriately, and there was a knock. He was beholden to this very earth, and then the procession went back to the Legion Hall.
When I read articles about this solemn event in the old Bridgeton Newsarticles, I found a line that connected a few dots in my mind.
“The orders were formed around the grave, and a very large number stood in silent reverence during the impressive service for those who embodied not only all the Bridgton boys who gave their lives, but also the great sacrifice of America and the world. ”
In researching this event, I found that it took place on September 11, 1921, exactly 80 years before America’s greatest tragedy – the attacks on our soil in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, better known today as 9/11.
I don’t need to share all the details of the tragic day. You people gathered here remember it well when I was a little kid. However, I would like you to consider the connection between the attacks and the tragedy of Lopeman’s death years earlier. Personally, I realized that the tragedies of World War I and 9/11, although at different times, were linked in that one final line of the previous quote: The “great sacrifice of America and the world.” 2,977 American men and women lost their lives at the hands of evil that day. Also in World War I 116,516 men and women were killed. Lopeman is our personal representative here in Bridgton for Maine’s great sacrifice in World War I and indirectly joins us today in remembering those who died on 9/11.
So please be silent while we ring the bell for the six Mainers killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon – Robert Jalbert, James Roux, Robert Norton, Jacqueline Norton, Robert Schlegel, Stephen Ward.
Gunners, please fire off two salvos for our important heroes. This first salvo will honor Edward Lopeman and the second will honor our Mainers who were killed 21 years ago today. Then I ask all of us to pause for a moment to allow the echoes of the sacrifices of these brave Americans to ring in your hearts along with the echoes of our guns.
As you walk out today, never forget the memory of Edward Lopeman, those lost on 9/11 and the bravery of the American spirit that has endured for centuries and can never be defeated, whether in the fields of Chateau Thierry, the World Trade Center or at Kabul Airport, Afghanistan in August 2021.
Lives may be lost, but American heroism will last forever!