Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Brooklyn Centre Celebrates Memorial Day

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When I was a child, each Memorial Day began when I watched the traditional parade down the main street of my hometown looking for  my dad, uncles and aunt as they marched proudly down the street. Every parade ended at the town cemetery where my uncle sounded cadence and my dad was one of seven who reported with the 21 gun salute. Taps was played and the flag was raised from half staff. When I grew older I marched as a girl scout and then later, marched as a member of the high school marching band.

How fortunate I am to live in a neighborhood where my friend and neighbor Rick Nicholson carries on a tradition started many years ago by the Brooklyn Centre historical Society in conjunction with the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve at the Brooklyn Centre Burying Ground located at the end of Garden Avenue off Pearl. Each year at 11 a.m. on Memorial Day we gather by the flagpole to remember our dead who fought to keep us free and to pray for the end of war. 

This year began with our organizer, Rick Nicholson, a member of the Cleveland Grays, leading us in The Pledge of Allegiance Reverend Neal Wilds handled the Invocation but first he talked about is connection to the Civil War, his boyhood home is near the site of the Battle of Shiloh. He then moved on to the Battle of Gettysburg and the loss of 51,000 American lives lost in the battle. He said it is hard to imagine the carnage of the three day battle and the lives changed forever.  He  then related that this bloodiest of wars was the beginnings of what we now call Memorial Day  He then said a prayer asking for the end of war and a world of peace.

Reverend Bob Andrew was next and his comments included facts about the cemetery.  Brooklyn Centre Burying Ground is the resting place of many soldiers beginning with the Revolutionary War and ending with World War II. He told us that he was drafted to serve in the Korean War as a chaplain and he was stationed in Japan and did not experience combat. He recited this poem by Cadet Major Kelly Strong Air Force Junior ROTC..

Rick Jaworski who served as president of Brooklyn Centre Historical Society for many years under the tutelage of Ruth Ketteringham read General Logan’s Order #11  which is the official beginning of Memorial Day which began the tradition of decorating soldier’s graves. For years, veteran groups sold crepe paper poppies to purchase flags to be placed on graves. I wonder how those flags are purchased now. Until 1967, when the last Monday in May became the official designated day instead of the original date of May 30th and the popular Decoration Day became known officially as Memorial Day.

After comments from the people gathered around the flagpole, Joy Parrish and her friend Doc played and sang a beautiful selection of songs. She started with this song by Simon and Garfunkel and ended the set with Let there be Peace on Earth -he asked us to sing along and we did quietly and then she performed  America The Beautiful. Along the way, Doc recited Poppies in Flanders Field with additional verses he penned to add soldiers beyond World War I. Joy set the poem to music but Doc forgot to give her ALL the lyrics so we will have to wait till next year to hear he WHOLE song. What she sang was beautiful.  Doc was concerned that John McRae would be upset that he took liberties with his poem. I told him he would probably be proud.

Everyone took a few flags to place on veteran’s graves to show us all how many of those buried there fought for the freedom we enjoy today. As the flags waved in the hot breeze, we said our last prayers for peace and solemnly stood looking out over the cemetery. I love the sound of “Taps” and I cherish the times I was asked to play it for soldiers’ funerals in my hometown. But, I never heard it played on a violin until today. Doc played it with a reverence and melancholy that I thought was reserved for bugles. We then bookended the service with a second recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance”.

I am truly blessed to live in a neighborhood that knows the meaning of “Memorial Day” and knows how to celebrate it.  Mark your calendars we will be there next year.

Written by Gloria Ferris

May 31st, 2011 at 12:06 am

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