Thanks to Rotary, Minot Maser’s father honored by the French Consul Général

Not many people are honored with the distinction of “chevalier”, or knight, of the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest award. Clark Maser, 96, father of Missoula Rotarian Minot Maser, was the fortunate recipient of such award this month at a special ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The elder Maser’s long journey to finally receive the award came about thanks to the Rotary Club of Missoula and a son’s determination to honor his father.
 
A year and a half ago, Laurence Markarian of Hamilton, MT, was invited to speak to our Rotary club on December 9, 2020. Appointed by the Consul Général de France in San Francisco, Markarian is the Consul Honoraire for France in Montana. Among other duties, part of her role is ceremonial. After World War II, France wanted to honor the many U.S. veterans who helped liberate the country from the Nazis. They began to seek out and honor U.S. veterans around the country. Markarian has presented 17 veterans from Montana the Medal of Legion of Honor for their service in helping to liberate France from Nazi oppression. 
 
Born and raised in France, Laurence lives in the Bitterroot. Her presentation at MIssoula Rotary club was well received and garnered many questions. She spoke about the importance of etiquette and understanding French culture. She also mentioned the Legion of Honor awards.
 
Minot Maser was in attendance that day and brought up the fact that his father Clark was one of those veterans who helped liberate France. Thus began Minot’s quest to honor his elderly father. 
 
Markarian explained to Minot that since his father lived in Vermont, he would need to work with the Consul Général in that part of the country. Not long after, Minot relocated to the northeast himself to care for his father who had spent most of his career as a successful attorney in San Francisco. The Maser family had long owned a seasonal home in Greensboro, Vermont, nearby where his father preferred to relocate. Clark Maser now lives in Littleton, New Hampshire. 
 
From the Rotary presentation, Minot followed up with the French contact on the east coast and finally, this month, his father was honored at a private ceremony at the official residence of Arnaud Mentré, France’s consul general, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
 
“You are a true hero for the United States, but you are also a hero for us, the French people,” said Mentré, according to a story in the Boston Globe. “It was one of the darkest hours of my country.”
 
In 1945, a then 19-year-old Clark Maser lay fighting for his life on a cold battlefield in France. His legs had three wounds and he was waiting for his life to end.
 
“I’m going to die,” he thought, as German mortar shells exploded all around him. “And I’ve never kissed a girl before.”
 
The elder Maser survived, unlike many of his comrades in the Army’s 103rd Infantry Division.
 
Born into poverty in a Chicago boarding house, Minot’s father went on to attend Harvard Law School on the GI Bill. He represented companies such as US Steel, UPS, and even famous child actress Shirley Temple Black, according to Minot. Throughout his father’s very long and full life in both professional and community endeavors, Minot says the one and half months his father spent in France remains the most impactful.
 
“It was a good time to serve one’s country,” said Clark Maser, who enlisted as a private first class on his 18thbirthday. “I never realized I would end up here.”
 
The elder Maser became his company’s interpreter in France when he indicated on a questionnaire in fall 1944 that he knew a little French. He had only studied the language in seventh and eighth grades. Once in France, he was asked to inquire in each village when the enemy had last passed through and where good encampments could be found. He also admitted he had his first taste of alcohol in France, drinking the red wine offered by grateful townspeople to American troops. 
 
In addition to his father’s interpreter duties, Minot said his dad became a company messenger because he had run the quarter-mile in high school. When his unit came under intense mortar fire in Itterswiller, a village in Alsace, the 160 men in his unit were nearly wiped out. On his father’s final dash as a courier, Minot said that schrapnel struck his father in both legs, one wound coming within an inch of the femoral artery.
 
“It was akin to being rammed by a telephone pole,” Minot said.
 
The memories of those experiences remain indelible for Minot’s father, who ended up on a transport ship home and was discharged as 60 percent disabled as a result, according to Minot. 
 
Despite damage to his legs, Minot’s father eventually played tennis for University of California, Berkeley, where he received his undergraduate degree thanks to the GI Bill. Minot said his father also became engaged in social justice causes, organizing a student protest and boycott of a local bowling alley where Black people were only allowed to set pins, not to play. The rules were changed. In his later years, the elder Maser led an environmental effort to keep jet-skis off Caspian Lake in Greensboro. 
 
Vermont’s governor, Phil Scott, expressed thanks for Maser’s “selfless and heroic” wartime service in a tribute read by Lise Veronneau, France’s honorary consul in Vermont.  
 
Minot said that his father remains very interested in world affairs and follows the war in Ukraine on a daily basis. 
 
All those in attendance at the small ceremony honoring Clark Maser lifted their glasses of champagne to toast him as he humbly accepted their praise.
 
“I was lucky,” Clark Maser said. “Now, I’m just trying to live out my life the best I can.”
 
Source: Boston Globe & Minot Maser