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Member Opens Veterans Museum

by Clyde Weiss  |  November 12, 2015

Member Opens Veterans Museum Glenn Dusablon, president of AFSCME Local 2869 (Rhode Island Council 94), at his new Woonsocket Veterans Memorial Museum, which opened on Veterans Day. Credit: Sandy Seoane, The Valley Breeze

Veterans Day was a special occasion for Glenn Dusablon, president of AFSCME Local 2869 (Rhode Island Council 94). Besides being a national holiday honoring the nation’s veterans, it was the day he opened his own nonprofit museum, dedicated to America’s veterans.

More than 100 first-day visitors – many of them veterans – stepped through the doors of the  Veterans Memorial Museum, in the city of Woonsocket (Providence County) Nov. 11 to admire the treasures that Dusablon has acquired since he was 9.

Just the day before,  a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held and attended by Glen and Carol Dusablon; U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.); Woonsocket Mayor Baldelli-Hunt; Normand Deragon, president of the American French Genealogical Society, which offered the space for the museum; and  Tyrone Smith, Veterans Affairs Coordinator in the office of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), who presented a congressional citation for the museum.

Among those who were present on opening day were members of the museum’s board of directors: AFSCME Council 94 Pres. J. Michael Downey and his wife Claudette; Council 94 Retiree Chapter Pres. Michael Connelly, and Ralph Belleville, a former member of the council, now retired.

Dusablon, a resident of North Smithfield, also a member of his council’s executive board, is chief electrical investigator for the state Department of Labor and Training. He has been collecting war memorabilia since he acquired a confederate Bowie knife that a relative, union soldier George Oakes, picked up during the fight. He also has an identifying stencil plate from Joseph Horton, another relative and a member of Oakes’ unit, the Massachusetts 57th Regiment, who fought and died in the war.

Beyond those special items that have a family connection, Dusablon treasures the hundreds of items he’s collected since, representing wars stretching from the Revolutionary and American Indian Wars through World Wars I and II and into more recent conflicts. He’s even got a Samurai sword, brought back as a souvenir during World War II, that was made in 1504. Many objects are so rare that they’re being reproduced.

Ask him which are most important to him, and he has a ready answer: “Anything associated with a veteran is what I prize as the most valuable. If it’s an artifact of a veteran, we display a photograph and a story of the veteran. Those are the things that mean the most to me.”

The nonprofit museum is the first permanent public home of his collection. Until now, he’s shown it at the RI Veterans’ Home, Elks clubs, VFWs and other venues. One who saw his collection was a retired Army colonel who had visited military artifact museums in all 50 states. He told Dusablon that his collection “is one of the most impressive,” and donated one of his uniforms.

Dusablon says the Woonsocket Veterans Memorial Museum is the accomplishment of “a lifelong dream” that would not have been possible without the generosity of the American French Genealogical Society. He also credits his father, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine during World War II, for encouraging his hobby.

Dusablon used a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to develop the museum, but invested his own money to rent the room, buy mannequins, and other material. Now he’s trying to raise money -- $200,000 – for a new elevator to make the facility more accessible. Donations can  be made at www.gofundme.com/veteran-memorial.

The Veterans Memorial Museum is located at 78 Earle St., Woonsocket, RI. Hours are Saturdays, 10-4. Call the museum to check for other times: 401-222-9025. Read more about the museum and Dusablon here.

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