Belmont’s Veterans Agent Bob Upton Retiring After Memorial Day

Photo: Bob Upton at the 2019 Memorial Day parade

Robert Upton, who tirelessly advocated for Belmont’s veterans and put his heart and soul in events honoring those who served and died for their country, will be retiring as the town’s Veteran’s Services Officer on June 3, days after the Memorial Day parade and commemoration.

The announcement was made by Wesley Chin at Monday’s Board of Health meeting.

Upton did not return a call for comment.

”There are no words to say what Bob does and how much he means to the town,” said Donna David, chair of the board on Monday. “It will be a huge pair of shoes for someone to fill, that’s for sure.”

Upton will come before the Select Board next week to ask for permission to hold the town’s annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony, this year on Monday, May 30.

Upton was appointed as the town’s veterans agent in January 2015. Soon after, Upton established regular meetings at the Beech Street Center to allow veterans an outlet to voice their concerns and to catch up on the myriad of services and benefits available to them and their families.

Upton is likely best known throughout town for his involvement in the planning and hosting Belmont’s observances of Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, which involves countless hours of coordinating with town officials and numerous groups to help recognize current and past residents who served their country.

He has also initiated the annual Purple Heart Day Ceremony held in August, headed Belmont’s commemoration of the Armistice Day Centennial and worked with Belmont Eagle Scout Oliver Leeb to create a database to easily locate the 1,800 military service dead in the town’s two cemeteries.

A Peabody resident, Upton – who has been a Realtor since the 1980s – has been involved in supporting veterans for well over a quarter century.

The job will remain a 26 hours a week, part-time position with benefits, said Chin.

“We know from past experience that with part time positions, it’s really hard to find good people,” he said.

US Flag Retirement Ceremony at Clay Pit Pond Saturday at 10AM

Photo: Retirement cermony Saturday

On Saturday, Oct. 14, at 10 a.m. the Belmont Veterans Service Office and Belmont Boy Scout Troop 66 will conduct a US Flag Retirement Ceremony at Clay Pit Pond, closest to the intersection of Underwood Street and Hittinger Street.  The public is invited to bring old, tired and or worn U.S. Flags to be properly disposed of by burning to this location beginning at

The public is invited to bring old, tired and or worn U.S. Flags to be properly disposed of by burning to this location beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday.  

In early September two U.S. Flag collection boxes were installed within Belmont; one at the Town Hall complex and another at the Grove Street Cemetery entrance to the right of the administrative office building. The boxes have been a great help to help us collect old, tattered and worn U.S. Flags so that they can properly be disposed of and retired.

Restoring Memories: Group Set to Mend Belmont’s Vet Memorials

The pain of John Ray’s brother’s death nearly half-a-century ago still haunts him.

“Even to this day, I still have dreams that he comes back to me,” said Ray speaking of his older brother, Walter “Donny” Ray, killed in action in Vietnam in November 1967.

Ray, along with Edward “Teddy” Lee – his teammate on Belmont High School’s 1964 state championship football team – and six other young men died fighting in Vietnam. They join the nearly 200 from Belmont, who died for their country in conflicts ranging from the Civil War to Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday, a group of veterans and friends and relatives of Ray and Lee came before the Belmont Board of Selectmen Monday, Aug. 18, to seek its support to raise nearly $350,000 to restore three monuments honoring those young residents who sacrificed their lives in defense of the country.

“This is about honoring our soldiers … and to find the capital to do this and really recognizing what the veterans have done for us,” said former selectman William Skelley, speaking for the newly-formed Belmont Veterans’ Memorial Project.

Kevin Ryan, a retired US Army brigadier general and currently a director at Harvard’s Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, said the group’s mission is to repair two existing monuments – the World War I monument across from the MBTA commuter rail station abutting Common Street and the flag pole memorial for all veterans at Clay Pit Pond near Belmont High School – and creating a new site for the WWII dead.

While Belmont has done what he believes is an excellent job acknowledging veterans, over the years, the locations have fallen in disrepair, said Ryan. Vegetation has overgrown the Clay Pit Pond site, and the location is not tidy and the memorial is small and not well presented. The WWI memorial is threadbare under years of gray paint with the stone work in need of repair.

“What we want to do is refurbish some of the sites, spruce them up and add a couple of sites as memorial for veterans” including moving the memorials for World War II, Korea, Vietnam and subsequent conflict currently located in the main lobby of the Belmont Public Library, said Ryan.

“We want it out into the open so people can [see] them more readily,” said Ryan.

“I don’t know about you but the library was not a place I hung out all the time as a kid or as an adult,” said Ryan.

A portion of the $350,000 will be used to clean and repair the WWI monument revealing the pink granite and also for repairs. Additional funds will create a WWII memorial possibly in the front of the White Field House abutting Concord Avenue named for James Paul White, who died in the Battle of the Bugle.

The majority of the funds, approximately $240,000, will go into major improvements at the Clay Pit Memorial. It will include renovating the site and adding plaques from each conflict with the names of those who died mounted on boulders or low stone walls “blending with the current monument and the surrounding landscape,” Ryan said.

The group said it hoped to raise from veteran and donations such as $150 for brick paver, $20,000 for a memorial bench and $10,000 each from major donors.

At the suggestion of the Selectmen, the group will approach the town’s Community Preservation Committee in September on the possibility of qualifying for a grant from the town’s Community Preservation Act Fund. Grants from the fund – supplied by a surcharge of the real estate tax levy – and used for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation.

After the Selectmen enthusiastically approved the project’s goals and efforts, both the veterans and family of those who will be recognized celebrated this initial victory.

Teddy Lee’s sister, Patty and Barbara, hugged many who came to support the new group’s efforts.

“It’s very touching,” said Patty.

“You can’t forget these young men, and it’s important to everyone to know what they did,” added Barbara.