Family of World War I soldier visits Legion Post in Medina that bears his name

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Descendants of James P. Clark, for whom the Butts-Clark American Legion is named, pose under his picture during a ceremony Saturday in honor of the 100th anniversary of the soldier’s death during World War I. Seated from left are Carol Clark, great-niece; Chere Bougard, great-niece, holding great-great-great-niece Roxa Paige, 3; and Sandy Bougard, wife of great-nephew Tom Bougard. Standing from left are great-great-niece, Jennifer Clark Page with children Daphne, 7, and Arthur, 19 months; Katherine and Randy Bougard, great-nephew; Barry Scolaro, husband of great-niece Chere Bougard; and Thomas Bougard, great-nephew.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 September 2018 at 9:06 am

MEDINA – Jennifer Clark Paige never knew her great-great-uncle Cpl. James P. Clark.

But on Saturday, she and her second cousin Chere Bougard of North Tonawanda had a hard time choking back the tears during a special ceremony honoring Clark at the American Legion Post on North Main Street .

“Although I never met him, he’s a hero and I would not be here without his sacrifice,” Paige said.

An honor guard from the Butts-Clark American Legion and Medina VFW offer a three-gun salute during ceremonies to honor Cpl. James P. Clark, who died 100 years ago Saturday while serving in World War I. In the background is bugler Russell Young, and standing at attention are Jim Freas and chaplain Dave Kusmierczak.

Cpl. James P. Clark was a Medina resident and member of Company F, who trained at the Medina Armory, along with his brothers Leslie and Seth.

All three were at the Hindenburg Line in France on Sept. 27, 1918, when James was shot and died.

“I had it in my mind we could go to France and visit the American section of Bony Cemetery, where Uncle James is buried,” said Chere Bougard, great-niece. “When it became apparent we weren’t going to get there, we started making other plans to memorialize him.”

About five years ago Bougard visited the Butts-Clark American Legion, which is named for Lt. John Butts and Clark.

She suggested to her second cousin, Jennifer Clark Page of Buffalo, about doing a ceremony in Medina, and Paige said, “Yes, yes.”

“We contacted the Post and they were more than welcoming,” Bougard said.

Glenn Whitmore, commander of the Butts-Clark American Legion Post in Medina, presents a coin given at military funerals to Chere Bougard of North Tonawanda, great-niece of Cpl. James P. Clark, who was killed in action 100 years ago and for whom the Post was named.

Saturday’s ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance and reading of the circumstances surrounding Cpl. Clark’s death by Cathy Fox.

“Today, Sept. 29, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of Cpl. James P. Clark’s death,” Fox said. “It is appropriate we gather to pay our respects to this young soldier.

“One-hundred years ago, Company F, 108th Infantry, which was made up of infantrymen from Medina and New York City, was part of one of the great offensive movements launched by American forces during World War I – to break through the German defenses at the Hindenburg Line. The object was Bony, France. That day, the attack began in the early morning hours and as the day progressed, they suffered heavy casualties. But, by 11 a.m. they had reached their goal.

“As the offensive progressed, the commanding officers of the unit were also lost. Cpl. James P. Clark of Medina assumed command of his unit at a moment when confusion could have overcome the men. For nearly 20 minutes, he urged his friends forward before receiving a gunshot wound to the chest. He died in the arms of his comrades. Of the 239 in Company F who had started the long march across the shell- and bullet-racked field, only 54 answered roll call after the engagement.”

Cathy Fox with the American Legion reads the story of Cpl. James P. Clark’s death during World War I during a ceremony honoring him Saturday at the Butts-Clark American Legion. At right is Legion commander Glenn Whitmore.

Cpl. Clark was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for “leading his men into effective action after all superior officers had been killed, and directing that action coolly and courageously.”

Fox explained that following the war, in early 1919 as the American Legion was becoming an official veterans’ organization, posts were being organized across the country. In Medina, the first step was deciding on a name for the new post, and it was a policy to name a post after a resident who had given his life for his country in the Great War.

This picture of the Clark brothers shows Leslie, 6; Seth, 4; and James, 2. It was provided by the family, who visited the American Legion Post in Medina Saturday on the 100th anniversary of James’ death in World War I. All three brothers were serving at the Hindenburg Line when James was killed.

Cpl. Clark was one of Medina’s first to die in France. The decision to name the post after him also honored his family, whose two other sons were wounded and able to return home.

Saturday’s ceremony then moved outside, where an Honor Guard from the American Legion and VFW gave a three-gun salute, followed by the playing of Taps by bugler Russell Young.

Legion commander Glenn Whitmore said it was a pleasure and an honor to have Clark ’s family there, as he presented Bougard with a coin which is given to a family at a military funeral. He also held up the Company F flag, under which Clark had served.

“We feel so honored to have the cooperation of these great people in Medina,” Bougard said.

“This has been very special,” Fox said.

Chere Bougard of North Tonawanda is solemn as the story of her great-uncle Cpl. James P. Clark’s death is read at the Butts-Clark American Legion Post on Saturday. Saturday marked the 100th anniversary of the soldier’s death at the Hindenburg Line.

From left, Glenn Whitmore, commander of the Butts-Clark American Legion Post; Jennifer Clark Page, great-great-niece of James P. Clark; Chere Bougard, great-niece of Clark’s; and Cathy Fox with the American Legion cut the cake during a ceremony Saturday to honor Clark, who died 100 years ago at the Hindenburg Line during World War I.

The Honor Guard from the VFW and American Legion in Medina pose with the family of Cpl. James P. Clark, who was killed 100 years ago Saturday during World War I, and for whom the American Legion is named.

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