Winifred Laflash Lancy, age 101, a native of Huntington, Vermont, was at the Ground Breaking Ceremony on the National Mall in Washington DC on Saturday, the 11th of November in 2000. She is pictured in a photo with her grandson Master Sgt Christopher Quinn, actor Tom Hanks and President Clinton. About 50 members of Winifred's family attended the groundbreaking ceremony where Winifred and others hoisted a golden shovel of dirt to symbolically begin the construction to honor her son Norman and 400,000 military killed during the war. Winifred had previously met Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg on the Navy Cruiser USS Normandy at Port Everglade, FL, when the U.S. Navy honored them with the Distinguished Public Service Award, which is the Navy's highest civilian award. This was for their efforts on the film, "Saving Private Ryan". As Tom and Stephen knelt beside her wheelchair, they asked if she planned to attend the groundbreaking ceremony, and she responded, "If I'm still around, I'll be there".
The Groundbreaking: Story and Photos by Nancy Nichols Jagelka of the MDW News Service
"As the formal ceremony officially began, the crowd heard welcomes from former Senator and World War II veteran Bob Dole, President Bill Clinton and "Saving Private Ryan" star Tom Hanks, as well as Tuskegee Airman Luther Smith, Ambassador F. Hadyn Williams and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) who spearheaded the campaign for the memorial.
As Hanks read from a 1943 dispatch by war correspondent Ernie Pyle, dignitaries such as Secretary of Defense William Cohen, retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, and the grandchildren of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill listened intently.
Special participants in the groundbreaking ceremony included 101-year-old Florida resident Winifred Lancy, the oldest surviving American Gold Star Mother to lose a son in World War II. As they picked up their shovels and turned over the ground in a ceremonial box produced for the occasion, Clinton joked with Lancy and waved to the crowd.
Winifred, from Huntington, VT, was only 5 months old when her great-grandparents celebrated their 50th Anniversary at a large gathering on their farm on Kenyon road at Fay's Corners in Richmond, and she not attend. But, Winifred spoke often of her experience at her great-grandparents 60th Wedding Anniversary at 134 Willard Street in Burlington in 1909. Lewis and Julia Barttro celebrated with an 8 am Mass at St Joseph Church, Burlington by Father J. A. Lacouture, which more than 250 people attended. They most likely renewed their wedding vows, a common practice at major anniversaries, and after the Mass, the extended family went to the Barttro house on Willard Street and dinner was served to over 50 people. A reception was held in the evening, and delegations from the 13th Vermont Regimental Association, Stannard Post, and Garfield Circles, and Ladies of the GAR attended, as well as a large number of friends. Purses of gold were presented from the 13th Vermont, Stannard Post, Family and Friends.
During the afternoon, Lewis gathered all the grandchildren before him in a large circle. He told them all about his part in the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, and he made a special point of telling his grandchildren how President Lincoln had visited Gettysburg and shook hands with many of the soldiers, including Lewis. He told them all, now whenever they shake hands with anyone in the future, you can tell them that, "they shook the hand, that shook the hand of the man that shook the hand of President Lincoln!" Winifred later related to all that "If you shake my hand, it's sort of like shaking the hand of Abe Lincoln".
Lewis Barttro was a French-Canadian who was born in Point du Lac, Quebec on 19 January, 1829 of Joseph Berthiaume and Marie Louise Baribeau. He was actually named Louis Berthiaume but later in life his surname was somehow anglicized to Barttrow and then Barttro; most likely by an English speaking clerk who did not understand how French names were pronounced or written. Lewis' family immigrated to Vermont in 1837 when he was 8 years old. The family walked from Point du Lac; near Trois Rivieres, Quebec to St. George, Vermont or about 165 miles; in April and stayed at farmhouses at night along the way. This trip took 28 days and the worst part of the trip was crossing on the ice of Mississquoi Bay on April 1st in a severe rainstorm. Lewis worked in St George for a few years and then moved to Worcester, Mass and learned the shoemakers trade and worked in the shoe shops there and later in Richmond, VT. He married Julia Bliss in Worcester (Her actual name was Julie Duplessis dit Sirois and she was born on 1 November 1831 in St. Pierre Les Becquets, Quebec). After moving back to Richmond Vermont, he enlisted in the 13th Regiment for 9 months of duty and his regiment was instrumental in turning back Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg on June 3rd 1863. Lewis and Julia had 18 children, nine of them born before his 13th Regiment engagements in the Civil War and nine born afterwards. Two years after their 60th Anniversary, Lewis and Julia died in 1911 in Burlington.
His son Lewis Barttro married a Kate Lynch on 23 September 1873, the 24th anniversary date of their parents! Their daughter Mabel married a John Laflash. The name Laflash is an anglicization of the French-Canadian Laflèche family. John and Mabel had 3 daughters, Inez, Winifred and Adelaide. Born in Huntington, Vermont as Fannie Winifred Laflash on April 5th in 1899, and her early years were spent in Huntington, Vermont. Later John and Mabel Laflash and family moved to the Underhill-Jericho area. Winifred attended elementary school there and graduated from the 8th grade. Her father told her that girl's did not need any more education than that and she began working in a local mill. John Laflash was an Underhill carpenter and a share farmer. The family was very poor and they would take in salesmen who were crossing the mountains to sell their wares. Winifred remembered that the children in her family had no shoes and therefore they could not go to school in the winters. John Laflash built their house and they enjoyed maple sugaring, and 'sugar on snow' was a treat for the family.
John and Mabel Laflash moved to Northbridge, Mass. and Winifred worked in the textile mills there at age 14. Later in life, the noise of those machines robbed her of much of her hearing. When she was 16, she met George Lancy at a roller skating rink in Worcester, Mass. and married George 2 years later. They raised a family of 6 children; Rita Inez, June Lancy Quinn, Oliveann Lancy, Ralph, Earl and Norman.
Winifred was a World War II Gold Star Mother because her son Norman died in action on August 4, 1944 during World War II, just 2 months after D-Day. He was 20 years old at the time. Norman was in the 577th Squadron of the 392nd Bomber Group of the Mighty 8th Air Force. He was flying as a radioman on his 25th and last scheduled mission and he was killed by flak that exploded inside his B-24 while on a bombing mission to German submarine pens at Kiel. In 1946, Winifred joined the Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers who have lost a child due to the war; and over the years, she has lobbied politicians on military issues and supported the building of war monuments.
In 1953 Winifred and her husband George Lancy moved from Massachusetts to Plantation Florida. George Lancy died at the age of 75 in December 1973. Winifred was a devout catholic and her Sunday mornings were spent at St Gregory's Catholic Church in Plantation, FL. On Thursday, November 23, 2001, Mrs Winifred Laflash Lancy died of heart failure. Hopefully she will be remembered during the 2004 Dedication of the World War II Memorial this Memorial Day. An era has quietly passed along with women like Winifred F. Lancy, who died at 102 in Plantation, Fla. She was believed to have been the oldest active Gold Star Mother.
John R. Fisher 1595 North Avenue, Burlington, Vermont 05401
Telephone calls and e-mails with Winifred's daughters, June Lancy Quinn and Oliveann Lancy.
South Florida Sun Sentinel - Obituary Nov 24, 2001
Stars and Strips: 9 Nov 200 by Marni McEntee; 13 Nov 2000 by Sandra Jontz
MDW News Service : Nancy Nichols Jagelka
Website: "Air Force Link"