HYANNIS – When Leonard C. Gobeil, Special Projects Coordinator for the Town of Barnstable, set out to find the back stories to every war memorial in town, he had no idea he would discover the sad tale of Ralph B. Hoxie.
Now Hoxie’s story is among those chronicled in large binders of materials stacked in Gobeil’s office, filled with historical records—photos and ephemera–of those honored for their bravery in wars stretching back to the Civil War.
Learning about the local soldiers who died was always emotional for him, Gobeil said, but the story of Hoxie stood out.
“He’s the one that affected me the most,” Gobeil said.
Hoxie, a 24-year old who was born in Cotuit in 1897, enrolled in the Naval Reserve Force in Boston during World War I.
The unusual thing about Hoxie was that while could have been sent overseas, instead he was stationed right here on Cape Cod. He was assigned to a unit looking for German submarines off the coast of Chatham.
According to Gobeil’s research, on April 27, 1918, “Hoxie was standing in the cockpit of Patrol Boat 610 while other sailors were testing rockets on a flat nearby. One rocket was fired toward the harbor, but as it struck the water, it glanced and passed over the boat, striking Hoxie and killing him instantly.”
In the Great War in which hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed, Hoxie was killed by “friendly fire” just miles from his birthplace.
And that is why there is a Ralph Bowman Hoxie Square, with a boulder honoring the young man, at the intersection of Lowell and Putnam avenues in Cotuit.
Turns out there are about three dozen memorials in the Town of Barnstable honoring individuals, like Ralph Hoxie, who served in the nation’s wars. The memorials, often a boulder with a plaque, are in all seven villages of Barnstable.
Each one of them has a story.
Gobeil, working with Sarah Colvin of the town’s cable access Channel 18, researched 15 memorials for Veteran’s Day 2012 and they researched 11 more for Memorial Day 2013.
They have at least 10 more to research and record, Gobeil said.
The story behind each memorial is that of the individual sacrifice of a former Barnstable resident. Many were graduates of Barnstable High School and some still have family in town.
There are also a number of general war memorials for World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War in town.
To hear more about Ralph Hoxie and the stories behind other war memorials, watch the 17-minute video, “Memorial of Remembrance,” which is on the website for the Town of Barnstable’s cable access Channel 18.
– Laura M. Reckford