For a day of remembrance

Loujane Johns
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the monument to Yates County Soldiers that’s located in the Yates County Courthouse lawn.

On May 26 people will gather across Yates County and the nation to remember those who have served our country.  Many places claim to have held the first Memorial Day, but in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson officially declared nearby Waterloo, New York “The Birthplace of Memorial Day.” It was Henry Welles, a druggist in that town, who organized the citizens in the laying of flowers and wreaths to honor veterans on a special day.

One hundred years ago in the Yates County Courthouse Park on Memorial Day, the statue commemorating veterans of the Civil War was unveiled.  Remarks noted in the Yates County Chronicle on that day to the board of supervisors: “As the custodians of the people of Yates County, we place this monument in your charge, to be cared for by you and your successors in your office so long as it shall exist.  We trust that you will not allow it to be disfigured or defaced, but see that it remains protected and cared for as a thing of beauty and joy forever to all succeeding generations of Yates County folks.”

On that day in 1908, The Honorable John T. Andrews served as president of the day. 

At that time the members of the audience included Civil War veterans.  Andrews related stories of Yates County residents who served in battle. 

He said in 1860 the population of Yates County was 20,290.  “Soldiers furnished by the county in the War of the Rebellion was 2,109 or nearly 10 percent.”

Our forefathers had no idea that today, this day of remembrance would include soldiers of so many other wars - World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq. But the tradition of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice remains. Several services are planned in the county:

PENN YAN:  This year’s events will begin at 10 a.m. when a parade will step-off  at the Weldon Funeral Home on East Main Street.  Participants will line up between 9 and 9:30 a.m. The committee is looking for floats, horses, antique cars and groups who would like to honor Memorial Day.  All veterans are encouraged to march or if they would like a ride in the parade, they can contact the American Legion at 536-8222.

This year’s Grand Marshals will be Bill Greindl and Harold Pedder.  The ceremony will follow the parade on the court house lawn at around 11 a.m.  The Master of Ceremonies will be Yates County Judge Patrick Falvey.  The main speaker will be Craig Howard, director of Veterans Administration Medical Center in Canandaigua.

After the ceremony there will be a chicken barbecue at the American Legion pavilion, which is open to the public.  For more information call the Legion at 315-536-8222.

DRESDEN: The Memorial Day parade and services in the Village of Dresden have been a long standing tradition.  When inquiring about this year’s celebration former resident Marilyn James said, ”Memorial Day means so much to me.  It is a great tradition.  I remember being in the marching band.  We are losing so many veterans every day - World War II vets and young ones.”

This will be the last year that Jeff Stempien will lead the Penn Yan Jr. High Band down Main Street to the cemetery.  Stempien is retiring and will be honored for his years of participation.  Bonna McMahon will give the band members American flag pins.

Four World War II veterans will be honored : Army, Arthur “Pete” Chambers and Arnie Christensen; Army Air Force, Clarence Ryal and Navy Charles Phalen.  The church service begins at 10:30 during which Clarence Ryal will read the honor roll as his grandfather did 100 years ago.  The parade and a chicken barbecue will follow.

DUNDEE: Details about Dundee’s activities were not available at press time.