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Volunteers honor life of Hudson soldier in WWI

A stone commemorates Pvt. Brabender in Cedar Park Cemetery in Hudson. Photo contributed

HUDSON—Last year the Hudson Area Library received a request from Erika Maris and Noa Haesaert of Belgium for information on Theodore Brabender of Hudson. This Belgian mother-daughter team had volunteered with the Adopt-a-Grave Program administered by the American Legion “Flanders Field” Post BE02 and had adopted Private Brabender’s grave in the Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium.

The program requires volunteers to visit their adopted gravesite and place flowers regularly and on special occasions, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Volunteers are also encouraged to share any information they uncover about the soldier with the cemetery office and the soldier’s next of kin. As part of their volunteer work, Ms. Maris and Ms. Haesaert reached out to the library to learn about the soldier they had agreed to honor.

Erika Maris (l) and her daughter Noa Haesaert at Theodore Brabender’s gravesite in Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial, Belgium. Photo contributed

The Hudson Area Library and the library’s History Room volunteers receive numerous requests for local history information, but this was the first time a request came from as far away as Belgium. The co-writer of this story, Marie Stark, a certified archivist and assistant library director at the time, and three History Room volunteers—Tom D’Onofrio, Joe D’Onofrio and John Craig—found information about Pvt. Brabender in various sources, including the Hudson City Directories and articles in local newspapers from as far back as 1904. They also visited the City Clerk’s Office for additional information.

All of this was shared with Ms. Maris and Ms. Haesaert, who then replied with information and photos about the ceremonies at Flanders Field.

Here is what we discovered about the life of Pvt. Brabender. He was born May 11, 1890 to Philip and Bertha Brabender. His father was a German immigrant who settled in Hudson and later served on the Common Council as an alderman. The couple had two daughters and a son, Theodore.

Theodore was raised in Hudson, attending public schools until 1908, when he became a plumber. In April 1918, he was drafted into the military. He trained at Fort Dix, NJ and became a private in Company F, 147th Infantry, 37th Division.

On June 7, 1918, Pvt. Brabender was shipped out to fight in France with the French; he later served with the English in Belgium. He never saw his family or Hudson again. On November 10, 1918, at the age of 28, one day before the signing of the Armistice that ended the First World War, Pvt. Brabender was killed in action.

His memory lives on in Belgium and at the Hudson City Cemetery (Cedar Park) at the grave of his mother.

Because of the work of the American Legion and Hudson Area Library’s History Room, and the generous spirit of a mother and daughter in Belgium, Hudson native Theodore H. Brabender is remembered with dignity and respect.

The Hudson Area Library’s History Room houses a special collection that pertains to the history of the City of Hudson, Columbia County and New York State. The History Room is open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, and by appointment. The library is at 51 North Fifth Street. 518 828-1792.

Brenda Shufelt is program director at the Hudson Area Library. Marie Stark was assistant director at the library until she moved to New Orleans in August.

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