Matthew Bashore, Brighton Veterans Memorial in Buckland Park, 11/11/20 [Photo: Maya Giron, RIT Photojournalism ’23] See At his boyhood home site, Historic Brighton dedicates Marker to Edward Crone, Brighton War Hero and Famous Fictional Protagonist
2020 has been the year of Edward R. Crone Jr.
As seen in At his boyhood home site, Historic Brighton dedicates Marker to Edward Crone, Brighton War Hero and Famous Fictional Protagonist, a few weeks ago Historic Brighton dedicated a marker on Crone’s home site at 1627 Monroe Ave. (M&T Bank). The marker explains that Crone, a Brighton High School graduate, was the inspiration for the “Billy Pilgrim” character in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
Then, on Wednesday, Crone’s service was honored at the Veterans Day ceremonies at the Brighton Veterans Memorial in Buckland Park.At the event, kept smallish because of the pandemic, were several familiar faces who come to honor veterans every year, including Brighton Town Supervisor William Moehle, Brighton Town Council Member Robin Wilt, Brighton Town Judge Karen Morris, former Brighton Town Supervisor Sandra Frankel and Congressman Joe Morelle.
Nonetheless, the highlight of the event was Matthew Bashore’s discussion of Crone’s life. As described by Moehle:
Matt began his talk by describing a special kinship he feels with Crone who lived only a few blocks away from Matt’s home in the Roselawn neighborhood. If Matt had lived during WWII, he would have known Crone, perhaps gone to school with him and perhaps gone to war with him.
At Brighton’s Veterans Day ceremony, Historic Brighton President Matt Bashore told the story of two WWII privates, Kurt Vonnegut and Edward R. Crone, Jr. Crone became the inspiration for the character Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Crone grew up in Brighton and died in a POW camp in Dresden where Vonnegut was also imprisoned. I presented the Town’s Veterans Day proclamation to Matt and it is on display as part of the Brighton Memorial Library’s Vonnegut display.
Matt told the story of a gentle soul who felt he was doing his duty to liberate Europe. Matt talked of how Crone became a prisoner of war and a captive in Dresden during its firebombing in February 1945. After the bombing, Crone suffered from what Matt says today we would call PTSD. Crone stopped eating and died of malnutrition in a German hospital. Five years later, Crone’s parents managed to have his remains repatriated and buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. At this point, Matt mentioned that his remarks might actually be more fitting for Memorial Day, the day dedicated to those killed during their service.
Matt retold how in 1995 Vonnegut learned — to his astonishment as he saw Crone buried in Dresden — Crone was now interred in Mt. Hope. In Rochester to give a lecture, Vonnegut visited Crones’ grave, smoked a cigarette, spoke to Crone, and later said the encounter finally ended WWII for him.
In Moehle’s concluding remarks, he encouraged us to dust off our high school edition of Slaughterhouse-Five or borrow a copy at the Brighton Memorial Library where the novel is currently the featured work in its All Brighton Reads series.
I borrowed the audio cassette at BML. As I type, I’m hearing that Billy Pilgrim (aka Edward R. Crone Jr.) is wandering, traumatized, in the snowy fields of Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, about to be captured and sent to Dresden.
On Wednesday, I went to Buckland Park at the time the WWI armistice officially began: The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. (see clock) Customarily, two minutes of silence is held while taps is played. I brought my father’s old trumpet and did my best.SEE