HOLDEN, Mass. — At the age of 25, Capt. Ira Kelton gave his life while leading a company of sharpshooters from Holden in the Civil War, and 150 years later, the town gathered to honor one of its best and bravest heroes with a dedication service at Saturday's Holden Days celebration.
When Holden resident and re-enactor David Gallagher saw the portrait of Kelton that hangs in the Town Clerk's office, he wanted to do something to honor the important figure in Holden's history.
"We're nearing Sept. 1, which was his birthday and when he was wounded," said Gallagher. "I think he was an icon for the town and that period. He was a very successful 25-year-old man, who offered himself up just like other veterans have done for years. He was also the highest-ranking individual from Holden to lose his life in the American Civil War."
Putting the call out to his re-enactor friends, the group was able to set up camps for both union and confederate soldiers for the town's Holden Days celebration, staging skirmishes, demonstrations, and parades to help others learn more about the turbulent time period in American and Holden's history.
Furthermore, Gallagher had the idea of issuing a proclamation of Ira Kelton Day, and with the help of State Rep. Kim Ferguson and town selectmen the group he was able to further memorialize Kelton's sacrifice.
Playing the role of the captain was Eric Atstupenas, a 27-year-old attorney who has been involved in re-enactments for about two years.
"It's more of an honor to be able to represent him the best that I can, and help bring him to life again for a brief period of time for the people of Holden to understand who he was and what he did for this town," said Atstupenas, whose resemblance to Capt. Kelton was striking, and made it as though the captain was able to step out of time to accept the honor from Holden's representatives Saturday morning.
Atstupenas said it was humbling to be able to accept the honor on Capt. Kelton's behalf.
"You don't feel worthy enough, because you can't truly comprehend what he went through and the adversity that he faced during that period of time," said Astupenas. "He was Holden's hometown hero. He did a little bit of everything, he was involved in the community, and when the call came out he rose to the occasion to serve his country, and he did so very honorably."
Gallagher said they hope to have the proclamations in a presentation case at Holden's Memorial Hall.
Capt. Kelton was injured in battle in 1862 and later died of his wounds. ,