Despite the weather, Cheshire comes out Saturday to honor those who gave up everything to serve the U.S.
CHESHIRE — It’s always the right time to remember the fallen.
That was clear Saturday when Cheshire residents refused to let pouring rain dampen their gratitude for those who served and died for their country.
The 2019 Cheshire Memorial Day Commemoration and Community Picnic was hosted Saturday by the Cheshire Community Action Team in partnership with the Cheshire Volunteer Fire Department.
The elaborate public ceremony, parade, graveside service and community picnic went off without a hitch — but under shelter in the dry, heated fire hall.
World War II hero 1st Lt. Don Barton shared stories from his days as a bombardier-navigator in the U.S. 8th Air Force. The 98-year-old flew 19 successful missions, and on his 20th, was shot down, breaking both bones in one leg and dislocating his ankle. Four of his crew were killed in the crash.
Ultimately, Barton received the Air Medal with two clusters, the Purple Heart with two clusters and the Prisoner of War Medal after he was held captive for almost one year.
“For every person that is in the cemetery with a plaque by their name, there is a story,” said Barton. “And that story is sometimes very remarkable. I used to always go to the cemetery and stroll, but at age 98 I don’t stroll as much anymore.”
His Memorial Days are always filled with thoughts of his four crew members who died.
“I remember it so vividly, with one of them 19 years old and their lives cut short,” said Barton. “I have so many memories of people and events during the war.”
State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, served as emcee, with Ontario County Historian Preston Pierce, Fred Goodnow, Robert Finger, Kevin and Sharon Cotter, Andrew Duncan and members of American Legion Post 256 Canandaigua also taking part in the ceremony.
As winner of the Rocky Balboa Americanism Award at school, sixth-grader Langdon Miller read the Gettysburg Address.
The Cheshire Quilters awarded a $500 scholarship to Cheshire firefighter Cameron Jones, who will attend Paul Smith’s College in the fall to earn a minor in firefighting and a major in culinary arts. A member of the U. S. Army Reserves, Jones will be on active duty after college.
Pierce reminded attendees that while graveside flags are abundant, not every comrade has been identified and memorialized.
“Some of those resting from their service have no memorial, no special stone or plaque as a testament to their service,” Pierce said. “Today, I ask you once more to search them out and decorate their graves with the flag they defended.”
Pierce said it’s been his experience that nearly a third of veterans throughout the country “rest for the ages with nothing but fading memories to mark their service.”
“Find them; mark them with a flag today and something better in days to come,” he said. “And do it now before the passage of time erases the memory of their service.”
As for today, Pierce said “be happy.”
“But be glad that you live in a community where going to Pine Bank Cemetery and rendering the honors that this day is all about is still important to the people who live here,” said Pierce. “Take some pride in that. Have an attitude of gratitude and be happy, but for the right reasons.”
Some of the day’s activities were cancelled because of the weather, including: Scout Troop 29’s Ian Duncan, who was to place a wreath at the cemetery; Priscilla Crawford, who was to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic; and Ashley Lima, who was to play Taps.
A free community picnic followed the condensed commemoration program.
Memorial Day events
Here are a few events happening on the Memorial Day holiday.
The Canandaigua parade will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the American Legion. Marchers will head down Main Street, turn on Gibson Street, then travel onto Pearl Street on their way to Woodlawn Cemetery, where a ceremony will begin immediately after the parade at approximately 11 a.m.
The town of Victor will be hosting a holiday breakfast from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday at the Victor Fire Hall. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. at the school and proceed through the town of Victor. A children’s carnival will be held after the parade at Victor United Methodist Church, 106 E. Main St.
A town of Seneca service, which is open to the public, is planned for 8:30 a.m. Monday at Veterans Park, 3675 Flint Road, Stanley.