September 26, 2009

Leo J. Comeau Honored

Here’s a brief follow-up to the excellent, detailed memoir by Lyle Haug, a Staff Sergeant with Co. A. 109th Engr, 34th Division in WWII, posted Monday, February 11, 2008, which mentions Private First Class Leo J. Comeau of  the109th who died in action at Anzio, Italy.

In May 2008, Leo J. Comeau of the 109th was honored, along with his brother, at the dedication of the newly built Joseph C. Comeau Bridge in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Joe Comeau, Leo’s older brother, served in the182nd Infantry Americal Division, leading his anti-tank unit in the legendary and bloody battles of Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the Philippine Islands and earning the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge. In 1969 Joe Comeau died of a heart attack while pitching to the youth league baseball players he was coaching. He was 58.

Leo, 28, was killed in action in Anzio, Italy, May 22, 1944. Joe and Leo were among eight children raised in Haverhill. Their only surviving sibling, Evelyn Connolly, was at the dedication. A granite memorial at the flag pole at the bridge is “Dedicated to the memory of those who served Haverhill in the 182nd Infantry of the Americal Division,  Dec. 23, 1940–Dec. 2, 1945.” Marilyn Comeau, Joe’s daughter, has donated Joe and Leo’s medals to the City of Haverhill.

In 1972 the Legislature christened the bridge that spanned the Merrimack River from Haverhill to Bradford the Joseph C. Comeau Bridge. However, that bridge was razed in 2002. When the replacement bridge was built, a small faction of Haverhill residents wanted to name it after the poet John Greenleaf Whittier who had been born in Haverhill. Veterans and the Comeau family wanted to retain the name. Among those supporting them was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry who expressed “outrage” at the possible name change.

Wreaths for both Joe and Leo were laid at the bridge dedication.

Submitted by

Maureen Ann Connolly

Cumberland Foreside, ME

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