Five to join Rockland Wall of Fame on Wednesday evening

By Stephen Betts | Jul 14, 2018
Photo by: Rockland Historical Society Abbie Burgess is one of five additions to Rockland's Wall of Fame who are to be honored July 18.

Rockland — An actress, a poet, a painter, a soldier and the daughter of a lighthouse keeper will be joining other Rocklanders on the Wall of Fame.

The Rockland Historical Society will be hosting a ceremony Wednesday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. to formally induct the five. The ceremony will be at City Hall, where plaques bearing their likenesses will be hung in the lobby.

Those selected to the Rockland Wall of Fame must have attained national recognition, have been born in or lived in Rockland, and brought pride to the community.

The Wall of Fame at City Hall was started in 1996 by a civic organization "Share the Pride." There were 15 inductees in the first year and an additional three in the following year.

The 2018 inductees will be Abbie Burgess, William Partridge Burpee, Leo Connellan, Gertrude Elliott and Wesley Hoch. A 19-minute video will be shown at the July 18 ceremony.

Burgess is recognized nationally as a heroine and is the subject of folklore because of her bravery and tenacity, according to Wayne Gray, who serves on both the Rockland Historical Society Board and the Wall of Fame Committee.

Brugess was the daughter of the keeper of the lighthouse on Matinicus Rock. In January 1856, a strong storm struck while her father, Samuel, was on the mainland. The family -- Abbie, her three siblings and their invalid mother -- was stranded on the island without new supplies for 21 days.

Burgess managed to keep the light burning for those 21 days to keep mariners safe.

A Coast Guard buoy tender was named after her.

Burpee was an American Impressionist painter, known for his landscapes and coastal views. In 1904, he and his work were honored at the St. Louis World Fair.

Connellan achieved national recognition as a poet. He served as Connecticut's poet laureate from 1996 until his death in 2001. He received awards including the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He has been designated one of Maine's most prominent poets in the Maine Literary Hall of Fame.

Elliott, born Mary Gertrude Dermot, was the younger sister of world-renowned actress Maxine Elliott. Gertrude also became an actress and starred in three silent movies.

The younger sister was more reserved than her older, more famous sibling, according to Gray. She was in rehearsal as Cleopatra in George Bernard Shaw's play, "Caesar and Cleopatra" when the playwright told her she was not exuberant enough in her role. He loudly urged her to be more animated.

"Remember Miss Elliott, you are Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt," Shaw is reported to have said.

"Yes, Mr. Shaw, but born in Rockland, Maine," she supposedly replied.

Hoch, who was a co-founder of North End Marine, was a merchant mariner and then enlisted in the Navy. He was called back to duty in 1961 by the Navy to serve in Vietnam.

By November of 1963, as reported in the Navy Times, Hoch made lieutenant commander. He received the Bronze Star with Combat and Distinguished Service and the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, an unheard-of accomplishment for an American, according to his obituary in December 2004.

The Boston Globe published an article in October 1963 titled "A Legend in Remote Seas: Maine Navy Lieutenant Leads Viet Junks."

The article stated "He has a rare rapport with the junkmen with whom he works. They, in turn, are devoted to him. For Dai Wei Hoch (their name for him) is one of them -- 24 hours a day. He wants no escape to separate quarters, clean restrooms, Western food, military clubs, and air conditioned rooms when 5 o'clock rolls around. Unlike so many other American advisors in Vietnam, Hoch lives, sleeps, eats and fights 24 hours a day, every day, with his junkmen. He refuses to accept any privilege he cannot give his men."

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