Glorious weather and an influx of welcome weekend visitors helped make the Island’s Memorial Day weekend an occasion for both solemn remembrance and a celebration of summer to come.
Starting at 7:30 am Monday, volunteers set up 450 flags at Tisbury’s Oak Grove Cemetery. Tisbury’s parade stepped off with military promptness at 9:30 am from American Legion Post #257, across from the Tisbury School.
A color guard from U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha led the way. Representatives of Island veterans’ groups and police, fire, and ambulance departments from Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs took part, as well as Massachusetts State Police and the Dukes County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Tisbury selectmen Jeff Kristal, Tristan Israel, and Geoghan Coogan, with son John on his shoulders, also marched in the parade, along with Island Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The Cub Scouts proudly pulled their first-place, prize-winning Chuckwagon Derby entry along.
Memorial Day ceremony
At the parade’s end at Oak Grove Cemetery, about 250 people gathered for a ceremony emceed by Dukes County Veterans Services Officer Jo Ann Murphy at the Avenue of Flags memorial. Participants represented a wide variety of Island organizations and age groups.
Boy Scout Joey Cywinski and Girl Scout Ruby Mercier raised and lowered the flag. The Reverend Dr. Jerry Fritz, pastor of the Federated Church of Edgartown, offered an opening prayer.
Music was an integral part of the program. American Legion member Edson Rodgers and Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling played “Taps” on their trumpets and Tony Peak played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipe.
Natalie Wood, a professional singer from Hebron, Conn., and a long-time seasonal visitor, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Joe Gervais of West Tisbury performed “If You’re Reading This,” a song by American country music artist Tim McGraw in tribute to families of fallen soldiers. Island Girl Scouts led the crowd in singing “God Bless America.”
Guest speaker Maj. David Berube, 102nd Intelligence Wing Chaplain at Otis Air National Guard Base, shared his recent experiences while deployed at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Dover AFB.
As part of a seven-member Chaplain Corps team, Major Berube participated in 180 transfers of the remains of 205 military personnel killed in war with 611 of their family members.
“We are here as a visible witness to the families of our fallen that they did not serve alone; that they had brothers and sisters who lived with them, loved them, fought with them, mourned for them, and will always remember them,” said Major Berube, who also serves as chaplain for the Oak Bluffs Police Department and the American Legion.
Retired Lt. Col. Fred B. (Ted) Morgan, Gene DeFelice, Mike Bettencourt, Legion Post #257 Ladies Auxiliary president Ann Call, Tisbury Fire Capt. Domenic Fullin, and Tisbury Ambulance director and firefighter Jeff Pratt participated in a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of those who died in war and as first responders after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Past Legion Cdr. Kevan Nichols laid a wreath at the cemetery’s Civil War monument.
Although a haze of smoke from distant fires in Quebec blanketed the air on Monday afternoon, the festive crowd that attended Tisbury’s picnic at the Water Works property took little notice. Music by the Flying Elbows, pony rides, and children’s games kept everyone’s focus on fun. The regional high school’s sailing team and Tisbury lifeguards organized rowboat rides.
Regional high school senior Hannah Marlin sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off the event.
Picnic committee member Ralph Packer said there was barely a spot to put a chair or blanket on the grounds when he arrived at noon. He and the committee estimated the crowd at more than 300 at its peak.
Mr. Packer and grill crew members Jeff Kristal, Denys Wortman, and Paul Brissette kept up a steady — and sweaty — pace cooking up barbecue fare brought by picnic-goers.
Jim Pringle and Dave Ferraguzzi served up ice cream provided by the picnic committee in cones supplied by Island Cove Mini-Golf. Other donations included hot dogs from Cronig’s Markets, watermelons from Stop and Shop Supermarket, and game prizes from the Toy Box.
March to the Sea
School programs and traditional marches to the sea on Friday provided a prelude to holiday observances.
Around 12:30 pm crowds lined Vineyard Haven’s Main Street as Tisbury School students marched by on their way to Owen Park to the tune of rousing music by the school band.
After the students threw flowers in the harbor to commemorate those who died in war, everyone gathered at the top of the hill for a program around the flagpole.
Staff Sgt. Richard Monaco, a U.S. Army reservist who served three tours in Iraq, Sgt. Greg Spain, a Marine Vietnam veteran, and Ms. Murphy were guests of honor.
Students Sophie Nelson, Leah Fortes, and Lorrane Menezes sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in beautiful three-part harmony. Lorrane, Barra Peak, and Tony Canha spoke about the holiday’s significance.
Trumpet players Gabby Silva, Ben Davey, Ellie O’Callaghan, Zachary Stevenson, and Dayanna Middleton played “Taps.”
Edgartown School also held a March to the Sea and ceremony at Memorial Wharf featuring Col. Morgan as the guest speaker. Oak Bluffs School’s assembly program featured Island veterans.