By Joann Mackenzie
The chairman of Gloucester's World War II Memorial Committee is planning one Yankee Doodle of a patriotic night this coming Saturday at his family's restaurant, The Gloucester House.
"People like to be entertained," says Michael Linquata Sr., "and this is going to be an entertaining evening."
The evening, which kicks off at 7, with doors opening at 6:30, is billed as a variety show and presented by Share the Music, a Rockport-based force of fun and entertainment, which, under the direction of Wendy Betts, has been staging crowd-rousing fundraising musical events for charities and community events on the North Shore and in Greater Boston for 12 years now.
Saturday night's fundraiser is a benefit for the Gloucester World War II Memorial in Kent Circle, a cause that Linquata — who, at the age of 19, served on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge — has made his late life mission for more than a decade now.
Some of the music will be from the World War II years, says Betts, whose 35 singers and live swing band have donned regulation era uniforms and staged full-out USO canteen programs of GI jive music for other fundraisers, including one in 2010 for the World War II Memorial.
This time out, however, says Betts, the program will be a medley of sing-along, swing-along favorites from all our programs — a little Roaring '20s, a lot of Broadway, from Jolson to Gershwin to Porter to Sinatra — all the way back to a rousing rendition of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Linquata, a war veteran who has become a veteran organizer of fundraising for the Kent Circle memorial, says "we've always had great success, full houses, with our other musical evenings, and I think this one, with all the great, old stuff people love — you know, like 'Puttin' on the Ritz' — it should be very interesting."
Tickets for the event are $20, with all proceeds going straight to "maintaining the memorial in perpetuity for generations to come."
Officially dedicated on July 4, 2006, the Gloucester World War II Memorial was inspired by a World War II memorial in Luttremange, Belgium, which Linquata visited on Sept. 14, 2002.
He was a guest, along with four fellow veterans of the 35th division of the 134th Infantry Regiment, at the dedication of this monument, not much more than a plaque, really, but a deeply moving one, in honor of the 35th Division and Gen. George Patton.
"Seeing that plaque, in that place," says Linquata, "gave me the idea of doing something like this back in Gloucester, in honor of all the Gloucester natives who fought in that terrible war."
The Kent Circle memorial evolved into a great deal more than "just a plaque." Today, it has six plaques, and 600 bricks, each eventually to be dedicated to a Gloucester veteran of war.
Linquata notes that 5,665 Gloucester veterans served in World War II.
"That was 22 percent of Gloucester's entire population," Linquata said, "and that was twice the national average, and some 115 died. I just want to make sure that all the Gloucester residents who fought in that terrible war will be honored and remembered for generations to come."
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3457, or at email@example.com.