By Marty Farmer
A Memorial Day commemoration at the Peace Triumphant statue in Scoville Park in Oak Park and River Forest's 89th annual Memorial Day Parade (10 a.m.) will be held Monday to honor the men and women who died while serving in the country's armed forces.
The event in Scoville Park, located at Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue, will begin at 9 a.m. and feature Vietnam veteran and Oak Park resident Brian Flora and his wife, Kay Kuhlman, portraying Union Army veteran Wilbur Fisk Crummer and his wife, Emma, who settled in Oak Park after the Civil War.
Flora retired to Oak Park with his wife after a 37-year overseas career with the U.S. Department of State.
As for the man Flora will portray Monday, Crummer enlisted as a private with the 45th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was promoted for valor at the Battle of Shiloh. At 20, he was declared mortally wounded at the siege of Vicksburg, but he survived and later settled in Oak Park where he lived 57 years.
In Oak Park, Crummer served twice as commander of the local Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, the 400,000-strong national fraternal organization of Union veterans. That association created Memorial Day (initially called Decoration Day) to honor those killed during the Civil War.
The History Singers, John and Kathryn Atwood, will lead patriotic songs at Monday's gathering. Adorned in a Civil War uniform, bugler John Borland will tell the story behind "Taps" before performing a rendition of the solemn bugle call, which was written in 1862.
The base of the Peace Triumphant World War I monument in Scoville Park includes bronze tablets inscribed with the names of more than 2,400 Oak Park and River Forest veterans, including Ernest Hemingway, who served in World War I.
The Memorial Day service will also include a color guard and rifle salute from the Oak Park Police Department Honor Guard, an invocation from Pastor Emily Gage of Oak Park's Unity Temple and a benediction from Lead Pastor Cisco Cotto of Village Church of Oak Park.
State Sen. Don Harmon, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and Virginia Cassin, chairwoman emerita of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, will take part in Monday's ceremonies.
RF Parade kicks off at 10 a.m.
Presented by the River Forest Service Club, River Forest Parks Foundation, River Forest Park District and the village of River Forest, the 89th Annual Memorial Day Parade kicks off Monday at 10 a.m. from Constitution Park at Ashland Avenue and Greenfield Street, then moves south on Ashland Avenue to Lake Street, before heading west on Lake Street to Keystone Avenue, ending at Keystone Park.
The parade annually offers more than 100 entries, including the Oak Park and River Forest, Proviso East and Proviso West High School marching bands and the Chicago Dixieland Band, which plays patriotic music.
After the parade, an assortment of color guards, marching bands, scout troops and others will take part in a more somber observance at Keystone. A community picnic will follow with free hot dogs, chips and soda/water.
"It's one of our biggest events of the year and really brings our community together," said Karen Stille of the River Forest Park District. "It's a day to honor River Forest residents who are serving, who have served, and remembering those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. It's a somber event, but also an event to celebrate all the individuals who have fought for our freedom."