Thanks to the Class of 1964, the three Notre Dame High School graduates who died in the Vietnam War finally got a plaque memorializing them placed in the foyer of the school more than 50 years later.
Fashioned by VP Graphics, the display remembering Donald Judd ('61) , and Daniel Bermingham and Thomas Welker ('64) can now be seen immediately as you go in the main entrance of the school at 73 Union St. in the City of Batavia.
The story of how the memorial came to be evolved over the past several years.
Dave Reilly and Jim Heatherman, who had attended Saint Mary's Elementary School, Notre Dame ('64) and Saint John Fisher College together reconnected after not seeing each other for almost 50 years. Heatherman had become a lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam while Reilly had gone on to a long teaching career.
Over the course of a number of conversations, Heatherman expressed regret that he had survived Vietnam and had gotten to have a large and loving family, but his classmates Bermingham and Welker did not. Reilly, who had been writing nostalgic articles about growing up locally for The Batavian, encouraged Heatherman to express his feelings by writing his own story.
Heatherman's article* appeared in The Batavian in August 2019. It was read with interest by another '64 classmate, Jim Fix. For many years, Fix had led local tour groups on tours of Washington, D.C., for First Choice Travel, which always included a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At "the Wall," designed by Maya Ying Lin, Fix would highlight his classmates and include Judd, too, who also was killed in the Southeast Asian war.
A highlight of the group's time at the Wall was when Fix would have the tour members make stenciled grave rubbings of the names of Judd, Bermingham and Welker as keepsakes to remember them by.
So when Heatherman's article appeared the proverbial light went on in Fix's head. His thoughts were that his classmates and Judd had long deserved to be remembered at their high school (There had been a Donald Judd Memorial Trophy that Notre Dame and Le Roy played for in football in the late 1960s and early 1970s.). So, combining the idea of a plaque with the design of the rubbings from the Vietnam Wall, Jim Fix put a plan in motion.
In the meantime, last Memorial Day Reilly carried out a request by Heatherman, who lives in Oklahoma, to place a Marine Flag on Welker's grave in Attica -- even though Welker was a Navy Corpsman, he was caring for Marines as their beloved “Doc” when he was killed -- and a Navy flag on Bermingham's grave in Batavia. He wrote an article detailing this with photos for The Batavian. This further made up Fix's mind to get the plaque project accomplished.
After consulting with Heatherman (who asked only that “Doc” be placed by Welker's name), Fix sent out an email to his 1964 former classmates asking for donations. As you might expect, the response was overwhelming and more than enough funds were raised.
Working with VP Graphics utilizing his grave rubbing stencils and photos and descriptions from the Notre Dame Mater Dei yearbooks, Fix persevered through the COVID-19 roadblocks and completed his “mission,” so to speak, with full cooperation from the current Notre Dame administration.
It took a very long time, but thanks to some hard work and dedication by their schoolmates the three Notre Dame graduates who in the words of Abraham Lincoln,”...gave the last full measure of their devotion,” will now be remembered by those who visit Notre Dame High School.
Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.
Previously: Memorial Day 2020: Belated thanks to a Seabee and a 'Doc'
Previously: Marine vet wishes he had 'do-over' to get to know two fallen comrades who were Notre Dame schoolmates
Below, Dave Reilly drove to Batavia Tuesday (March 23) to check out the new Vietnam Memorial for fallen members of Notre Dame High School's classes of '61 and '64.