‘Julia’ honors those who served in World War I
The statue known as “Julia,” a memorial to those lost in World War I, stands at the entrance of East Stroudsburg University. (Bob Weidner/The Office of University Relations, East Stroudsburg University)
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, just three years following the Civil War. Gen. John Logan proclaimed the day as an important opportunity to honor the graves of soldiers by decorating them with flowers.
The month of May was chosen because flowers would be in bloom across the entire nation. Gen. Logan urged citizens to use “the choicest flowers of springtime” and that all “should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
In Monroe County, celebrations to honor the sacrifices made by fallen soldiers and reflect upon their military services were not held until three years later, in 1871.
In the 20th Century, honoring the memory of fallen soldiers continued. Following the end of World War I on November 11, 1918, the alumni of East Stroudsburg State Normal School (now East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania) wanted to honor the school’s servicemen in a more permanent manner. The group raised $2,600 and purchased a statue made of Vermont granite.
The unveiling of the memorial statue was held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 2, 1919, almost a year following the signing of the armistice. The dedication ceremony began as the members of the Erie Shops Band and the members of the George N. Kemp Post of the American Legion marched to the Normal School campus. The directors of the school, followed by the faculty and students, walked in pairs down the long path to the statue.
The statue was unveiled by two alumni sergeants, E. Chester Kemp and Hastings H. Jones. According to the Morning Press newspaper, once unveiled, the statue received “great admiration.”
The statue was a female figure representing Alma Mater, a Latin phrase that translates into “generous” or “kind” Mother. The phrase is often used to identify a school, college, or university that a student formerly attended; it also refers to a school’s song. In her hand, the statue holds a wreath in dedication to the fallen soldiers.
The base of the statue is engraved “I PREPARE FOR SERVICE,” and a plaque below reads:
ALUMNI, STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
WHO SERVED IN THE GREAT WAR
What more can a man offer than his life
Armstrong, Fred, Navy – Died
Frederick, Elmer, Sgt. Av. – Died
Kemp, George N., Capt. Inf. – Killed
McGeady, Peter L., C.W.S. – Died
Noble, Raymond H., Capt. Ord. – Died
Saunders, L. Glenn, Sgt. Eng. – Killed
The dedication ceremony began when Miss Haas led the gathered crowd in the singing of “America.”
Following the song, participants and attendees moved inside the auditorium where the ceremony continued. The band played “In Flanders Field,” and Dr. J.A. Singer introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Thomas E. Finnegan, superintendent of public instruction of Pennsylvania. Dr. Finnegan honored the students who served and stressed the importance of education in the reconstruction of the world. He commented that “the school must be made the great agency for the social improvement and common enlightenment of all our people.”
Dr. Finnegan’s closing remarks were:
We bow our heads in deepest sorrow in memory of the two courageous boys who paid the last great sacrifice so willingly and so cheerfully. We dedicate therefore this monument to all of these patriotic sons and daughters of the East Stroudsburg State Normal School and to the eternal principles of right, justice, liberty, and national freedom which they aided in preserving to mankind.
The ceremony closed with two songs. First, the students first sang the school’s Alma Mater. Then, the students and the audience joining together to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” A closing benediction was given by Rev. W.K. Newton of the East Stroudsburg Presbyterian Church.
Compared to the student body of many other educational institutions, East Stroudsburg State Normal School saw many of its students fight in World War I. Over 200 men and women who had attended or were attending the Normal School enlisted or were drafted into the war effort.
From those, Dr. Finnegan noted that “eight became corporals, 31 sergeants, 24 lieutenants, and 10 captains in the armies of the nation. Two ensigns, one junior lieutenant commander, and one lieutenant commander were furnished in the Navy and from the women, four entered the service of the Navy – three as nurses and one as a yeowoman.”
It wasn’t until the early 1920s that the statue received the name “Julia.”
Students studying Latin for their classes often lounged at the statue to compare translation notes of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. The frequency of this practice led to the informal naming of the statue. The name “Julia” lives on today for the students who find a connection to the school’s patriotism as they remember and honor those students who sacrificed their lives in battle.