Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day

Decoration Day was first observed after the Civil War as an opportunity to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the war. New York officially recognized the holiday in 1873, but it was not a national holiday until 1971. In fact, it was only after World War I that the ceremonies honored those who have died in all American wars.

We walk and drive past it every day and may not even know it's there. Once a year, maybe twice, we notice the red, white and blue decorations which have been placed there. The granite memorial on the corner of Broadway and Conklin Avenue in Woodmere was dedicated on Memorial Day (May 31) 1948 to the

sacred memory of those from Woodmere and Hewlett who gave their lives to defend and preserve this nation
The old Rockaway Journal articles recount that the weather was not pleasant on that Memorial Day. Yet, a crowd of 1,500 gathered in a parade, half of which began at the Lawrence Station progressing towards Woodmere Boulevard.

Veteran and civic groups, members of houses of worship, Boy and Girl Scouts and fire companies from Lawrence, Cedarhurst and Inwood joined a their counterparts from Hewlett and Woodmere, which marched down Broadway from Prospect Avenue.

Clergy from the local churches and synagogues delivered the Benediction and Invocation. Featured speakers included Charles Hewlett, Chairman of the Dedication, Chauncey Ogden, Superintendent of Schools, and Brigadier General Cornelius Wickersham, a prominent attorney with a distinguished military career. His father had been Attorney General under President William Howard Taft.

Members of the Woodmere-Hewlett Exchange Club, 1942
(left to right: George Hewlett, Chauncey Ogden, Gaylord Healy,
President; Harry Pearlstein, Wallace Small, Rev. Leon Kofod, Charles Hewlett)

The memorial to those lost in the two World Wars was purchased with donations from the community, most of them $2 and $5 and organized by the Woodmere-Hewlett Exchange Club, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

H.K. Peacock Memorials in New York City created the monument, which replaced a temporary honor roll listing local servicemen and women.

Landscaped by Dalisimer Inc., the permanent memorial was on the grounds of Woodmere High School. Just a few years before, most of those listed on the granite were students there. Below are archival photographs of some of the memorialized servicemen. They were brothers, husbands, and sons and they lived in the neighborhoods of your home town.

Photographs of some of those from the Five Towns lost in World War II

So the next time you walk down Broadway, or are stuck in traffic in front of Woodmere Bicycle shop, take a moment and recall the sacrifice of these servicemen and their brothers and sisters whom we honor this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day ceremonies, 1992

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