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Western Pa. communities to mark holiday with tradition

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Placing flags at McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery are Army veteran Jim Englert of McKeesport, who served during World War II, and Maggie Johnson of McKeesport, whose family served in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Veterans Activities Association president Jim Calvin, an Air Force veteran, places a flag at the grave of his father James S. Calvin, an Army veteran who served in Korea.

The region's observance of Memorial Day began well in advance of Monday's traditional events.

On Tuesday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, the Financial Planning Association of Western Pennsylvania gave its First Class Patriot Achievement Award to Ernest R. Oatneal of McKeesport and 16 other veterans from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland counties.

McKeesport Veterans Activities Association has its annual ceremony on Monday at 9:15 a.m. in Memorial Park along Lysle Boulevard.

Local veterans participating will include James G. Calvin, Sam Givens, Jeff List, Michael Mihalko and the Liberty Borough Veterans honor guard, as well as an address by Lt. Col. Ronald Bonomo of Detachment 2/2200 Military Intelligence Group in Rome, N.Y.

The ceremony is dedicated to the memory of Bernice Lee Vaughn, who grew up in McKeesport and lived there for more than 60 of her 95 years. She was a member of the Fifth Ward Smilers Softball team; a director of the city's YWCA; a McKeesport Area school board member; and was in Little League and Cub Scout leadership roles. She served in the Women's Army Corps; was a member of American Legion Post 666; served on the McKeesport Hospital board; and retired in the early 1980s as executive director of the Oldtimers' Steelworkers Foundation.

A parade down Fifth Avenue will follow the ceremony with participation from local officials, veterans organizations and student musicians.

After that, LaRosa Boys & Girls Club, site of one of the earliest Vietnam war memorials, conducts its 46th annual Memorial Day ceremony.

Club treasurer and veterans affairs chairman Walt Yager and executive director Jim Barry will preside at the ceremony, recognizing 11 club members who died in Vietnam: Norman Johnson, Michael Nemchick, James Brooks Jr., Tyrone Burse, James West, Gregory Popowitz, Curtis Gay, Thomas Sweeny, Louis Huff II, John Germek Jr. and Lee Thomas.

Elsewhere, weekend events begin on Saturday:

Glassport American Legion Post 443 will have its Memorial Day service on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Honor Roll along Monongahela Avenue. Two South Allegheny High School trumpet players will perform taps and two SAHS drummers will provide accompaniment for the roll call of names.

Light refreshments will be served at the post hall when the service concludes.

• The first of two Memorial Day weekend events in West Mifflin is a service Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mitchell Paige Memorial Park.

• Under the direction of Duquesne Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 188, Boy Scouts will place flags on Saturday at the graves of veterans in St. Joseph's cemetery in Duquesne and St. Agnes cemetery in West Mifflin.

• On Sunday in McKeesport, Beulah Park United Methodist Church will honor veterans at an 11 a.m. service, including a music appreciation program when the adult choir will perform anthems from the last year under direction of the Rev. Kathy Barnhardt and music minister Gerald McGrew Jr. Other musical selections will be dedicated to veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Dravosburg American Legion Post 380 will have its Memorial Day service on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the post home along Ravine and Duquesne streets, because of the reconstruction of the W.D. Mansfield Memorial Bridge.

Whitaker will have a parade and memorial service on Sunday. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. and units will line up near the intersection of W. Larkspur Street and Whitaker Way. Services will follow at Whitaker fire hall along Church Street.

• Services will take place in Lincoln on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Borough Memorial Fire Hall.

• Units including the South Allegheny High School marching band will gather at Port Vue Memorial American Legion Post 447, 304 Gumbert St., on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a parade to the honor roll where a service will follow.

Wilmerding will have its Memorial Day service on Monday at 8 a.m. in Wilmerding Park. East Allegheny High School's band will conduct the first of its three Monday performances at the park near the old Westinghouse school.

• The Irwin/North Irwin/North Huntingdon Township Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 and American Legion Post 359 will have their annual parade on Monday. Participants will form at 9 a.m. near Immaculate Conception Church along Second and Oak streets in Irwin. The parade will proceed down Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and end at Irwin Cemetery where a service will feature the Irwin Male Chorus and an address by former Norwin High School U.S. history teacher John Polivka.

• For Homestead and Munhall, Monday's parade lines up at 9 a.m. in the Steel Valley High School parking lot off Main Street, then proceeds at 9:30 toward Homestead Cemetery where memorial services will be conducted at 10.

• Kastan Uveges VFW Post 7632 and Alonzo L. Weigle American Legion Post 553 will have an annual parade in Elizabeth on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

• East Allegheny High School's band will be involved in Wall's Monday event at 10 a.m. at the borough's memorial.

• In Clairton, a parade will start at Clairton Education Center on Monday at 10:30 a.m. and travel along Waddell Avenue to Fifth Avenue, then to St. Clair Avenue and Ravensburg Boulevard. There will be a service at city hall at 11.

• “You are cordially invited to join us as we mark 52 years of our community coming together to salute our veterans and remember those who have gone before us,” Jefferson Hills Mayor Michael Green said of the borough's observance on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Floreffe Volunteer Fire Co. and Lobbs Cemetery.

The service begins at the honor roll at the Floreffe fire hall, 1540 State St., followed by a parade to the cemetery along Walton Road, where the service continues with a color guard, guest speakers, laying of a wreath, music and taps. Refreshments will follow the service.

West Mifflin's historic Lebanon Church Cemetery has its Community Memorial Day Service on Monday at 10 a.m. with guest speaker Bob Schwille.

The West Mifflin Area High School Air Force Jr. ROTC Saber Team will participate.

East McKeesport Hilltopper VFW Post 8430 placed flags on 4,000 graves on Wednesday at Grandview and St. Joseph cemeteries in North Versailles Township. Post 8430 will have a service on Monday at 11 a.m. at Grandview Cemetery along Route 30 at the junction with Broad Street. Cmdr. John Farrell said there won't be a flyover as in past years because of federal budget cuts but the East Allegheny High School band will be there as well as a rifle team from Wilmerding VFW Post 1768 and a bagpiper.

A free cookout will follow at the Post 8430 hall.

• In Pleasant Hills on Monday, American Legion Post 712 color guard will perform at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery at 11 a.m. and at Bill Green's Shopping Center, Thomas Jefferson High School and the post hall, 650 Old Clairton Road, at about 1 p.m.

West Homestead will have a memorial service on Monday at 11 a.m. at the municipal building.

White Oak American Legion Post 701 will have a parade at noon. Participants should check in at the legion by 11:30 a.m. A service will follow at the post hall along Pennsylvania Avenue and Capital Street.

On the airwaves during the holiday weekend, WQED-13 caps a day of specials with the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

AAA East Central said 34.8 million Americans will travel this weekend, with more than 31 million driving 50 miles or more to events.

For those taking buses, Port Authority will operate Monday on holiday schedules. Its customer service phone line — 412-442-2000, TTY 412-231-7007 — will operate from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Staff writers Michael DiVittorio and Eric Slagle contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan and Jennifer R. Vertullo are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cloonan can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or Vertullo can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or

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