ABOUT TOWN: Stoughton's Memorial Day Festivities Salute Fallen Heroes
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AN AMAZING WEEKEND SALUTE: Stoughton Veterans' Agent Mike Pazyra did it again. He pulled off a perfect day, and a wonderful weekend for memorializing those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It may have been the largest Memorial Day Parade crowd in recent memory, and the gatherings at Evergreen Cemetery and the two Memorial Square dedications were also very well attended. The weather, which seemed to threaten rain early on Memorial Day on Monday, cleared up and was just perfect.
The weekend started with the reflagging of veterans graves on Saturday, May 26. Dozens of scouts and other interested children got new flags from Pazyra, and went about replacing the worn ones with the clean new flags at Evergreen Cemetery, on Washington Street, diagonally across from Town Spa. There was also reflagging at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery on Central Street, another final resting spot for Stoughton's veterans.
On Monday, May 28, the Memorial Day Parade started off at the Stoughton DPW on Central Street around 9 a.m. They stopped for a short service at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, and then moved onto Town Hall. There, Pazyra introduced State Senator Brian A. Joyce, who made a presentation to Mimi Burns and her daughter Laura Lindelof, in honor of Bradford Burns, who founded a number of organizations to assist Vietnam veterans. He died in 1980 at age 29. His mother Mimi, sister Laura, nephew Brian, and Mervina Johnson, who worked with him in one of those organizations, attended the ceremony.
World War II Naval hero Charles Large, who is living at Charlwell House in Norwood, made the trip and once again read the names of all the Stoughton soldiers from World War I to the present, who have given their lives for their country. As he read the names, retired Veterans Agent and Vietnam Veteran Paul Flynn, answered, "Absent, Sir."
The festivities were kicked off at Town Hall by a very thoughtful prayer, offered by Rev. Rebecca Cho of First United Methodist Church. Town Hall ceremonies were capped by some poignant and patriotic music by the award-winning Stoughton High Marching Band.
However, Stoughton VFW Judge Advocate Charlie Wade, and many others, did notice something unusual at Town Hall. He told About Town, "It's an outrage that there was no American flag on the flagpole."
There were certainly dozens of flags to salute, but the one on the flagpole was missing.
Usually, Town Hall janitor Tony Leal puts the flag up the pole. But Leal is on paid suspension while he faces charges involving an alleged assault of a woman in Town Hall. Bob Grover, the retired Building Inspector who is now in charge of all of the town's custodial staff, wasn't available for comment. But, Interim Town Manager Joseph Feaster, Jr. told me, as we walked to Evergreen Cemetery, that he would "take the hit."
"There's really no excuse why it wasn't put up. It was a mistake. An oversight," he said.
In a weekend of perfection, that was the only mistake.
The Parade then went over to Faxon Memorial Veterans Park, where Selectman John Anzivino recited an opening prayer, and the Stoughton High Marching Band played another tune. Wreaths were laid at the different memorials, and "Taps" was played. It is always an emotional presentation. If you haven't visited Faxon Memorial Veterans Park, you should. You might know it from the cannons that are on the site facing Park Street, but there are a number of beautiful memorial plaques, and of course, the Charles Large Gazebo smack in the middle. That is the site of the Lions Club concerts during the summer.
At Evergreen Cemetery, the Stoughton High Marching Band played, and Stoughton's Town Moderator Howard Hansen read President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Hansen said that 60 years ago Harold Brown delivered the Address at Evergreen, and Boy Scouts were invited for the first time then. Young Howard Hansen was one of them. He was honored to be delivering the Address this year again, and once again, gave a copy of it to a young Scout, seven-year-old Preston Keenan.
After the Evergreen ceremony, two concluding ceremonies were held at the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Lot and the American Legion Burial site. Then, a collation was held at the VFW Post 1645 on Washington Street. Hot dogs, beans and salad were served to those who marched in the parade, and participated in the ceremonies. Thirsts were quenched and then it was time for the Memorial Square dedications.
Both of the recipients - James Callanan and David Sears - passed away relatively recently, and were well known in town. Both were obvious choices for these rare honors - that reflect not only their service to their country, but their service to their town.
The first presentation was the dedication of James A. Callanan Memorial Square, at School and West Streets. His widow, Evelyn, received proclamations from State Rep. William Galvin (D-Canton) , and Selectmen John Anzvino and Bob O'Regan. The sign was unveiled and Taps was played.
Three of Callanan's grandchildren, James and Danny McNamara, and Sean Byron, participated in the preparation of the sign and placement of the wreath at the top.
Evelyn said that May 24th would have been her and James 60th Wedding Anniversary. She thanked the large throng that gathered.
Callanan was well known as the founder of Stoughton's Annual Christmas Parade, which I have proudly hosted the past several years. It was also his idea to create memorials and to dedicate streets to veterans. How wonderfully ironic that he should get his.
Callanan served in the Korean war, and together with his wife, had owned Stoughton Variety Store for nearly a quarter century, at the corner of School and Canton Streets (it is currently Corner Cafe.)
A Scholarship for a Stoughton High band member has been awarded in James name for a number of years by the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce.
He was the father of four daughters, 11 grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. His daughter, Janice Callanan Byron, has kept his retail spirit alive. She is using some of his former counters and showcases in her quilting store in Weymouth, called Heart in Hands.
The other recipient, David P. Sears, received his Memorial Square at Cedar Street and Independence Avenue. It was Sears who started the tradition of using Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to help the town's reflagging efforts.
Sears served in the Marine Corps from 1959-1963, which was during part of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was very active in Stoughton's VFW Post 1645 (where a door was dedicated in his memory), and Amvets Post 1977. He was part of the honor guard and the firing team, and was a familiar face to everyone who attended Stoughton's parades.
He was also part of the many Stoughton folks who volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Brockton, serving ice cream and other treats to soldiers there (Mike & Cindy Pazyra and Bernie Planeta, among them.) Sears and his widow Helen were married for over 49 years, and had four daughters, and four grandchildren. His grandson Nick Papa, his "adopted grandson" James "Jimmy" Landry, and his youngest daughter Julie Gillis were part of the ceremony, in front of a larger gathering of family and friends.
Yes, it was another incredible Memorial Day weekend in Stoughton. Congratulations to everyone involved, especially Pazyra who spends endless hours on making everything just right. He did it again.
Additional Memorial Day Parade photos can be found here:
REMEMBERING BOB PARSONS: Bob Parsons was my friend, and Town Meeting colleague. And, I had the honor of working with him on a number of July 4th weekends, and celebrating their success at his home for a barbecue. I got to know his wife and children, and am happy to call them friends. Bob left us way too early, passing away on May 24 at the age of 60.
His Wake is TONIGHT, Tuesday, May 29. Visiting Hours will be at Farley Funeral Home on Park Street, from 4-8 p.m.
The funeral precession from Farley's will be at 9 a.m. on Wednesday with a Mass at 10 a.m. at St. James Church. Burial following the Mass will be at Maplewood Cemetery (Across from the Stoughton Armory).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: to Stoughton Fire Department Paramedic and Firefighter Jack Hussey.