A plaque for former Putney resident Maxine Loomis who died during World War II was dedicated during Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony.(Howard
A plaque for former Putney resident Maxine Loomis who died during World War II was dedicated during Sunday's Veterans Day ceremony. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)

PUTNEY -- A few years ago Barbara Titus was visiting the grave of family member Maxine Loomis in Westminster.

She was shocked that day to find that a brass plaque that was affixed to the Loomis gravestone had been stolen.

Loomis was born and raised in Putney and at the age of 26 she volunteered to be an American Red Cross nurse during the early days of World War II, before America even had entered the war.

In late June 1941 a ship Loomis was on that was bound for Europe was torpedoed by a German ship and Loomis lost her life.

"It was bolted in there and everything and they had chipped it away and taken it out," Titus said about the missing plaque Sunday during a Veterans Day ceremony in Putney. "It made me feel horrible to see that."

Titus called other family members and over the past few years they worked with the American Red Cross to help get a new plaque for Loomis' grave.

On Sunday that plaque was delivered to Putney.

"I've been back and it feels terrible to see that blank spot," Titus said. "I thought that she needed to be honored, because she wasn't a veteran but she was a nurse. She lost her life and people need to remember."

The plaque was on display Sunday during Putney's Veterans Day ceremony, which was also a commemoration of the town's granite war memorial which stands in front of Town Hall on Main Street.

Dozens of people showed up Sunday to listen as Taps was played in front of the monument.

And almost 100 filled the Putney Community Center later to hear speakers talk about Veterans Day and listen to the American Legion Band.

Sam Haskins, veteran policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders, read a letter form the Senator and a letter was also read from Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Maxine Loomis was one of six Red Cross volunteers who died in 1941 when the SS Maasdam sank.

Loomis' surviving sister-in-law, Marilyn Loomis, reached out to the American Red Cross to help have the plaque replaced.

"It was our only reminder of what she did and how she died in service to our country as a member of the Red Cross," Marilyn Loomis wrote to the Red Cross after the plaque was stolen.

Part of the delay in bringing a new plaque back was caused by the time it took to track down the wording on the original plaque.

The new plaque, which includes the wording from the original, reads "To Maxine Loomis, in honor of her courage and resolution in crossing the sea to serve with the American Red Cross Harvard Field Hospital Unit England, 1915-1941.

"Their sacrifice was great, and the loneliness and sorrow that has come into the lives of each of their families can not be forgotten by any of us," said American Red Cross Director of Communications Doug Bishop, reading from a letter the Loomis family received after her death.

A Putney resident looks at a scrapbook honoring war veterans during the town’s Veterans Day ceremony Sunday.(Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
A Putney resident looks at a scrapbook honoring war veterans during the town's Veterans Day ceremony Sunday. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
"The spirit which prompted the nurses of the Harvard Unit, the spirit which has informed their work through the years serving England during war time, has been, and will always be, a source of inspiration and strength to me personally. We of the Red Cross are deeply and sincerely grateful that we have been privileged to have any share in it."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.