Midtown Community School will be renamed William Shemin Community School after a Bayonne Medal of Honor recipient. The Bayonne Board of Education voted on the resolution at a Jan. 30 meeting.
Shemin was honorably discharged from the army in 1919 after fighting in the Aisne-Marne Offensive in France in World War I. A semipro baseball player and forester in Bayonne before his military career, Shemin later went on to forestry school and opened a greenhouse and landscaping business in the Bronx, where he raised three children.
Shemin, who died in 1973, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2015 for taking command of a platoon after all its senior officers were killed over a two-day span in August of 1918. Shemin’s command ended with a bullet lodged behind his left ear. He would finish out his tour of duty in occupied Germany and Belgium. Shemin is one of 27 Jewish-American Medal of Honor recipients.
In good company
Bayonne has two other Medal of Honor recipients, who were recognized with entities that bear their names. Bayonne Park was renamed for Stephen R. Gregg in 2001. The district’s newest school was named for Nicholas Oresko in 2013. Midtown is the district’s second newest school, built in 1992.
Juan Perez, Bayonne Councilman-At-Large, sent a letter to the board pitching the suggestion. He said his idea was inspired by a visit to Shemin’s grave in Staten Island with a group of Bayonne veterans.
“I was very humbled to be there and privileged to be standing by the grave of a man considered a hero,” Perez said at the Jan. 30 meeting. “As you can see, we have Oresko School and Gregg Park. This would be ideal, like a triangle. Not too many cities can brag they have Medal of Honor winners. We have three.”
Midtown Community School was the last school in Bayonne not named for a person.
“After we looked at it, we figured we honored the other two,” said Board of Education President Joseph Broderick. “Why not honor the other guy?”
“I love veterans,” said Trustee Michael Alonso before the vote. “So I’m going to vote yes.”
“I believe Midtown Community School should be called the Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan Community School.” — Victoria Pike
Women get short shrift
Two meeting attendees were against the renaming. One said that Shemin should not be considered because he left Bayonne relatively early in his life.
Victoria Pike, a former teacher at Midtown Community School, suggested it be named for Dr. Patricia McGeehan, who was principal at the school when it was founded. The following year, the school became the first in Hudson County to win the Blue Ribbon Award. McGeehan later went on to become superintendent of the district.
“I truly believe with my whole heart that William Shermin was a brave soldier who deserves the Medal of Honor,” said Pike. But, noting that the Mary J. Donohoe Community School is the only school named for a woman, she reiterated, “I also believe Midtown Community School should be called the Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan Community School.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org