Memorial Day 2008

Memorial Day 2008

In 1865, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, mentioned at a social gathering that honor should be shown to the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves.
In the Spring of 1866, he again mentioned this subject to
General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray embraced the idea and a committee was formulated to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead.
Townspeople adopted the idea wholeheartedly. Wreaths, crosses and bouquets were made for each veteran's grave. The village was decorated with flags at half mast and draped with evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.
On May 5, 1866, civic societies joined the procession to the three existing cemeteries and were led by veterans marching to martial music. At each cemetery there were impressive and lengthy services including speeches by General Murray and a local clergyman. The ceremonies were repeated on May 5, 1867.

The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by
General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order No. 11 establishing "Decoration Day" as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo's first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30.

In 1965, a committee of community leaders started plans for the Centennial Celebration of Memorial Day. The committee consisted of VFW Commander James McCann, chairman, American Legion Commander Oliver J. McFall and Mayor Marion DeCicca, co-chairman, along with Village Trustees, M. Lewis Somerville, Roscoe Bartran, Richard Schreck, Tony DiPronio, and VFW Vice-Commander, Kenneth Matoon. Their goals were: "to obtain national recognition of the fact that Waterloo is the birthplace of Memorial Day through Congressional action" and "to plan and execute a proper celebration for such centennial observance."

In May of 1966, just in time for the Centennial, Waterloo was recognized as the "Birthplace of Memorial Day" by the United States Government. This recognition was long in coming and involved hours of painstaking research to prove the claim. While other communities may claim earlier observances of honoring the Civil War dead, none can claim to have been so well planned and complete, nor can they claim the continuity of observances that Waterloo can.
The Centennial Celebration that year brought dignitaries from government, military, veteran's organizations and descendants of the original founders of Memorial Day. A once luxurious home on Waterloo's Main Street, built in 1850, was purchased from the county and restored. Now the Memorial Day Museum, it houses artifacts of the first Memorial Day and the Civil War era.

Memorial Day is commemorated each year in Waterloo. The parade, speeches, and solemn observances keep the meaning of Memorial Day as it was originally intended to be.




Who  will we remember,

On Memorial Day, this year?

The list grows longer every day

With names of loved ones lost, no longer here.
Will we remember one of the daring Doughboys,

Who perished in a muddy, gas-filled trench?

One of a hundred thousand who did not return,

We sent him “Over There”, to help the French.
Will we recall our heroes of World War II?

They fought in many lands, in the air, at sea.

Nearly half a million gave up their lives,

To keep us safe and free from tyranny.
Will we remember 


, “The Forgotten War”,

And the Soldier who died taking Pork Chop Hill?

One of tens of thousands who paid the price;

And one of the many who are missing still.
Will we remember just one special name,

One of those engraved on that cold black wall?

One of over fifty thousand gallant souls,

Who in 

South Vietnam

 did bravely fight... and fall.
Will we recall that dreadful, grim September day,

The day the Towers fell and thousands died?

The day that terrorism showed its ugly face,

The day that Lady Liberty bowed her head... and cried.
Will we remember those lost most recently,

In the Afghan hills, on Middle Eastern sands?

Our troops protect our freedom and our way of life,

As they fight and die in foreign lands.

Will we remember them?

We will remember them, each and every one,

And we salute them all with heartfelt praise.

We will honor their courage, their pain and sacrifice.

Not just for today, but for all our days.
Frank J. Montoya

The above poem was is used with permission of the author




This table set for one is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. Remember!

The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. Remember!

The single rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who kept the faith awaiting their return. Remember!

The red ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing. Remember!

A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate. Remember!

There is salt upon the bread plate symbolic of families’ tears as they wait. Remember!

The glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us this night. Remember!

The chair, the chair is empty, they are not here. Remember!