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Georgian's Memorial at West Point marks the end of a proud, young life

Originally Appeared in : 9723-11/9/17

Face it, he was meant for fame. Young and vigorous and an outstanding athlete and student, Richard B. Sheridan should have gone places, and he certainly did. His family was proud of him and had every reason to be. He would be starring in the October 24, 1931 game between Army (West Point) and Yale University. Earlier, the Augusta footballer had been named a corporal of cadets, the highest honor possible for a second classman. On that fateful fall day, Cadet Sheridan was – as always – performing well. Only this time, the effort he expended resulted in tragedy. While trying to make a tackle, he was seriously injured. He died shortly afterward, the cause of his death being a broken neck. 

 

An editorial eulogizing Richard Sheridan that appeared in the November 7, 1931 issue of the Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association extolled him as “a star of the first magnitude on the West Point eleven,” noting that in a recent game against Harvard Sheridan had scored one of two Cadets’ touchdowns. Richard Sheridan had been a parishioner of Saint Mary on the Hill Church in Augusta and, while at West Point, was a member of the chapel choir. He would, the editorial writer commented, be remembered for his courage and determination. Bent on attending the U.S. Military Academy, Richard had enlisted in the regular army at first and was later accepted as a student at West Point. Who knew that the fulfillment of his life’s dream would indirectly lead to his death?

 

 

The funeral that followed this aborted dream took place at West Point and was attended by family and friends as well as members of the Army and Yale football teams. Following a Requiem Mass in the morning conducted by Father J.A. Langton, Catholic chaplain of the Academy, and a final afternoon service that afternoon, the burial of the young cadet proceeded with full military honors, as a caisson carried his coffin to the Academy’s cemetery.

 

Profoundly grieved by his parents, Richard B. and Katherine Keenan Sheridan, Sr. and his brother, Gerald Sheridan and sister, Joseph L. Herman, Richard Sheridan Junior was interred on a site near Gee’s Point on a bank of the Hudson River. His grave was on sacred national ground and was located near markers commemorating critical battles of the American Revolution such as those at Yorktown and Palo Alto.

 

A September 17, 1932 article in the Bulletin mentioned that “a magnificent exedra” had been erected with full military honors at West Point in memory of Cadet Richard Sheridan Junior. The Bulletin story revealed that the memorial was made of Georgia marble and designed by Louise Sparrow Kidder, a prominent sculptor and widow of a U.S. Army officer. The monument was installed while music for the ceremony, provided by Richard Sheridan’s class’s band, played in the background.

 

This solemn ceremony would not be the last one at which the name of Richard B. Sheridan, Junior would be mentioned. In 1933, an announcement in a Bulletin story mentioned that the Sheridan Memorial Saber would be awarded annually to an outstanding Augusta student at Richmond Academy. The tradition apparently continued, as seven years later it was still being presented to students at the Augusta school. That year, 1940, Albert Battey Junior was the student at the Augusta school who merited the Richard Sheridan, Junior Award.

 

Today, the Sheridan Memorial still stands at West Point on a bank near the Hudson River, its inscription reading: “To the memory of Cadet Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Jr., Class of 1933.” Erected by the Corps of Cadets MCMXXXII, the memorial further explains that Sheridan was a cadet at West Point who died on the gridiron of the Yale Bowl in October, 1931. Nearby, the Sheridan Memorial Bench invites visitors, young or older, to rest on it as they contemplate the sad story of a young cadet who died at a long-ago football game, doing – as always – his very best and living out his dream.

 

Columnist Rita H. DeLorme is a volunteer in the Diocesan Archives.

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