Area Memorial Day observations
After years of declining participation, McKeesport is attempting to restore the dignity of its Memorial Day observance by condensing activities to a formal ceremony and luncheon to honor the region's veterans.
The biggest change in this year's program is the elimination of the parade that once carried veterans groups and the McKeesport Area marching band along Fifth Avenue through the downtown area.
“Very few people were coming out to watch the procession, and I believe that low turnout is disrespectful to those who have served our nation,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “We wanted to do something that would honor our veterans who have passed and allow the servicemen and women who are with us today to feel like honored members of our community.”
Clifford W. Flegal Sr., a World War II veteran who enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, will serve as the master of ceremonies on Monday in a 10 a.m. service in Memorial Park along Lysle Boulevard. He is one of many local veterans who agreed the city's observance should be changed.
“We're losing our veterans, and there's nobody downtown to watch,” Flegal said. “We decided to broaden our ceremony at the veterans memorial and go from there. A lot of people forgot us, but some of us still remember the veterans.”
Flegal reflected on the origins of Memorial Day, noting that it began as Decoration Day after the Civil War.
“Some ladies in upstate New York wanted to put flowers on the graves of Union soldiers who were killed,” he said. “At the same time, ladies in the Carolinas wanted to do the same thing for Confederate soldiers who were killed in their town.”
There is a longstanding American tradition of honoring the memory of the nation's veterans, not only those who were killed in service, but those who have died since, Flegal said.
“I was first in a Decoration Day parade with my dad, who was a Spanish-American war veteran,” he said. “I was 8 years old. At 94, this is nothing new to me.”
Flegal remembers all of McKeesport's veterans programs as if they took place yesterday. He remembers large parades that filled downtown streets with spectators, as the old route brought veterans and community groups down Fifth Avenue to the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery, where a servicemen, politicians and judges would address the crowd.
Monday's program will be highlighted by remarks from the newly formed McKeesport Veterans Action Committee chairman Michael W. Egenlauf Jr. of AMVETS Post 8, Cherepko, Port Vue Mayor Brien Hranics and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Craig S. Frangente.
A Blue Star Memorial Marker will be revealed by the Joyful Bloomer Junior Gardeners in partnership with the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.
Participating organizations include VFW Post 514 of McKeesport, American Legion Post 361 of McKeesport, American Legion Post 447 of Port Vue, Liberty Boro Veterans Association, and the McKeesport Area High School Tiger Marching Band.
Across McKeesport's downtown, the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club will honor its fallen members in its 47th annual Memorial Day ceremony at 11:15 a.m. During the Vietnam conflict, 23 McKeesporters made the ultimate sacrifice, and 11 of them were Boys & Girls Club members.
While McKeesport's parade is no longer part of the program, traditional processions will accompany observances in communities across the Mon-Yough region:
A parade will leave Clairton Education Center at 10:30 a.m. on Monday and follow St. Clair Avenue to Ravensburg Boulevard, where an 11 o'clock ceremony is planned at city hall. Speakers include Mayor Rich Lattanzi, representatives of VFW Post 803 and American Legion Post 75, and Clairton police officer and veteran Dan Jena.
American Legion Post 380 will host a Sunday ceremony. Further details were not available at presstime.
A Monday service presented by the Hilltoppers VFW Post 8430 is planned for 11 a.m. at Grand View Cemetery along Route 30.
On Monday, American Legion Post 553 will continue its riverfront tradition that goes back nearly 50 years. The observance will begin with a 9:30 a.m. parade at Bayard and Third Streets, followed by a ceremony at the fire department's bingo hall and the Monongahela River boat dock. Coast Guard Cmdr. Lindsay Weaver-Marcenelle, the first female officer in chief of the Pittsburgh district, will address attendees. Her remarks will be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony from the deck of the USCGS Osage.
Glassport American Legion Post 443 will host a Memorial Day observation on Monday at 11 a.m. at the borough's war memorial along Monongahela Avenue. The program includes an honor guard presentation and memorial for the deceased. It will be followed by a light brunch at the legion hall.
A wreath-laying ceremony is planned for Monday at 10 a.m. at the veterans memorial at Floreffe Volunteer Fire Co. It will be followed by a parade to Lobb's Cemetery, where state Rep. Rick Saccone will deliver remarks. Local veterans groups, Scout groups and firefighters will be among the participants.
A Sunday service is planned for 1 p.m. at the borough's social hall.
A Memorial Day Mass is scheduled for Monday at 8:15 a.m. at St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church.
Nearby, a parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Steel Valley High School. The parade will move to Homestead Cemetery for a 10 a.m. ceremony.
Following the ceremony, there will be a light social at the borough building. The featured speaker will be the Rev. William D. Galus, senior pastor at Walnut Grove Assembly of God in West Mifflin. He served aboard an aircraft carrier during Vietnam and later became a missionary to Western Samoa.
The Irwin/North Huntingdon VFW Post 781 and Irwin American Legion Post 359 will host their annual parade at 10 a.m. on Monday. It will begin at Second and Oak streets in Irwin. Preregistration is not necessary to take part in the parade.
The parade will be followed by a program at Irwin Union Cemetery, where the Irwin Male Chorus will sing. Arrival at the cemetery is expected between 11:20 a.m. and noon.
A Memorial Day parade is planned for Pittsburgh's Lincoln Place neighborhood on Monday at 10 a.m. The route begins at the intersection of Plaport and Interboro avenues and closes with a solemn service on the Mifflin Elementary School lawn.
In Oakland, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust will host its annual Memorial Day celebration on Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free program will honor all fallen Pennsylvania service members from the War on Terror, nearly 300 who perished in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A Monday service is planned for 11 a.m. at the borough building.
The borough will hold its Memorial Day service on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Mitchell Paige Park. There will be patriotic songs and participation by the Air Force Junior ROTC and the Titan Brass Ensemble from West Mifflin Area High School. Mike Mauer from Intrepid Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 is scheduled as the keynote speaker. New soldiers' tribute banners will be unveiled. Hot dogs will be served after the observance.
A Sunday parade will begin at noon along West Larkspur Street. It will continue along Whitaker Way to the borough's fire hall at Church Street. A service is planned for 3 p.m. at the VFW Post 6673.
The borough's annual parade is planned for Monday at 12:30 p.m., proceeding down Willard Street from the Lincoln School Apartments to Lincoln Way, where it will continue to Capitol Street and American Legion Post 701.