NEW BEDFORD — The roar could be heard well before the Blackhawk helicopter came into view Wednesday morning in the city’s South End.
Children and adults alike were captivated as the sleek, black bird landed gently at Ashley Park just across from the John B. DeValles Elementary School.
The helicopter was joined by Humvees, Howitzers, New Bedford High ROTC members, Massachusetts National Guardsmen and its top brass, city and school officials and more than 200 elementary students to mark the rededication of DeValles School and the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.
The school is named after WWI hero the Rev. John B. DeValles, an Army chaplain from New Bedford who was honored for his bravery in getting fallen soldiers back from “no man’s land.”
The Guardsmen brought with them and presented to the school a bronze relief of DeValles, which had been languishing in storage for decades. They also presented the city with the three medals DeValles was awarded: Distinguished Service Cross, WWI Victory Medal and Croix de Guerre. The presentations were made by Major General Gary Keefe of the Massachusetts National Guard.
DeValles was given the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest honor after the Medal of Honor, for “extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, Toul Sector, France, between April 10 and 13, 1918.” DeValles “repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy artillery and machine gun fire in order to assist in the removal of the wounded from exposed points in the lines."
The Croix de Guerre, which is a French honor, was “presented to Chaplain John B. DeValles for extraordinary heroism and exceptional devotion to duty” in battle.
DeValles was born in the Azores in 1879 and came to Massachusetts at age 2. He was educated in New Bedford and was ordained in 1906. He was pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in New Bedford. He died of abdominal cancer only months after coming home from the war in 1920.
In 1920, the city renamed the Katherine Street School after DeValles, and this year the National Guard’s 26th Yankee Division Centennial is recognizing DeValles as part of its two-year effort to commemorate the sacrifices made by the division from 1917 to 1919.
Wednesday’s rededication was joined by four DeValles family members: Estrella Pires, William Pires, Ilene Fernandes and Darlene Azadina.
Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.