GLOCESTER – On July fourth, at 4 p.m., in Chepachet, the 97th Glocester Ancients & Horribles parade featured co-marshals Richard Mende, 91, a Korean War Veteran, – and George Barber, who served in World War II.
Burrillville resident and United States Army 75th Infantry Division veteran Barber grew up in Glocester, and has earned awards for his service to America, such as the Bronze Star, and the American Legion Certificate of Honor Post 17 Blanchard-McCutcheon award.
The veteran served from 1944-1946 and also received recognition from other nations for his service, such as the Liberation De La France, Normandie 1945 medal.
“This is truly an honor to have a WWII vet born, raised, and lived in Glocester … to be an honorary grand marshal,” said Glocester Town Council member Cheryl Greathouse.
Expert marksman Barber is a Combat Infantryman’s Association Charter Member.
When asked about his expertise with arms, Barber says, “You had to be [an expert].”
Stationed in Europe in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany, he recalls life in the war was “difficult.”
He says life then was relentless movement forward fighting against the Germans, and a constant effort to survive.
Barber says he was later, “lucky,” to drive trucks during the war.
He knew how to drive a truck from growing up on a dairy farm in Glocester.
“It was hard work,” growing up on the farm, he remembers, “and a matter of survival,” to earn a living.
Drafted at age 18, when he was newly married, Barber was in the war, so he didn’t get to see his baby son until the child was just past age two. He fathered seven children.
Barber trained with Ford as a mechanic, eventually opening his own shop, car dealership and gas station, George A. Barber Auto Parts in Pascoag, which he ran with son Paul.
Greathouse and former Glocester Town Council member Buster Steers, along with Barber’s daughter, Cathy Jenks of Burrillville, were instrumental in Barber’s appointment as co-marshal of the parade.
Greathouse, the liaison from the Glocester Town Council to the parade committee, was contacted by a former member of the council, Buster Steere, “with a request by George Barber’s daughter to appoint him as grand marshal at the 2024 Glocester Ancients & Horribles Parade, since one had been chosen for 2023.”
“We’ve attended every parade for as long as we can remember,” said Jenks.
She explains her father was during the war one of a handful of snipers who had the job of having to check things out in advance of troops moving in. Jenks says her father won awards, such as for rifle competency. He was a gunner in combat, and earned medals for good conduct and a Europeon-African-Mideastern Theater Campaign ribbon award.
Greathouse contacted the parade committee with the request to appoint Barber as co-grand marshal.
“He is 97 and this is the 97th year of the parade,” she said.
The appointed grand marshal and the parade committee agreed to have Barber ride in the first car, “in honor of him being a WWII vet,” Greathouse said.
Greathouse said a member of the parade committee will ride in a golf cart alongside the veterans to ensure they’re, “hydrated, since it will be a hot day, and to make sure they are feeling okay.”
Barber smiles, a twinkle in his eye, when he’s asked how he feels about being a co-marshal of a parade he’s known all his life.