By Marty Farmer
A Memorial Day commemoration at the Peace Triumphant statue in newly renovated Scoville Park and River Forest's 88th annual Memorial Day Parade will be held to honor the men and women who died while serving in the country's armed forces.
In remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Vietnam veteran and Oak Park resident Brian Flora will portray Union veteran Wilbur Fisk Crummer, who lived in Oak Park after the war. 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, Crummer was declared mortally wounded at the siege of Vicksburg, but he survived and later settled in Oak Park, where he served twice as commander of the local Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The History Singers, John and Kathryn Atwood, will lead patriotic singing at Monday's gathering. Adorned in a Civil War uniform, bugler John Borland will tell the story behind "Taps" before performing a rendition. According to Wikipedia, "Taps" originates from the Dutch term taptoe, meaning "close the (beer) taps (and send the troops back to camp).
The Memorial Day service will also include a color guard and gun salute from the Oak Park Police Department Honor Guard, an invocation from Rabbi Max Weiss of Oak Park Temple and a benediction from Pastor Rene Willett of Fellowship Christian Church in Oak Park.
"Five years ago, we started to put this program together," said Jill Wagner of the Oak Park Arms. "Over the last five years, the [Peace Triumphant] statue and Scoville Park have been renovated. The Memorial Day commemoration is an opportunity to remember and honor a piece of our local history."
At the base of the Peace Triumphant World War I monument are bronze tablets inscribed with the names of over 2,400 Oak Park and River Forest veterans, including Ernest Hemingway, who served in World War I.
Redd Griffin, who died last year, will be remembered during the ceremony. Griffin was a regular participant in Oak Park's Memorial Day and Veterans Day commemorations.
State Sen. Don Harmon and Virginia Cassin, chair emerita of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, will take part in the ceremonies.
The start time has been changed to 9 a.m., partly to accommodate the River Forest Memorial Day Parade which begins at 10 a.m.
Presented by the River Forest Park District and River Forest Service Club, the 88th annual Memorial Day Parade will kick off from the corner of Ashland Avenue and Division Street. The parade then moves south on Ashland to Lake Street, then west on Lake to Keystone Avenue, culminating at Keystone Park where a service will be held honoring local veterans.
The event will also pay tribute to Anne Smedinghoff, who was killed in southern Afghanistan on April 6. The 25-year-old River Forest native was serving as an American diplomat when she was killed along with four other Americans and an Afghan doctor while walking from a military base to a nearby school.
As one of 12 special events that the park district is hosting this year, the parade is projected to have over 100 entries in the festive procession. The Oak Park and River Forest, Proviso West, and Proviso East high school marching bands will entertain thousands of spectators. The Chicago Dixieland Band, another annual staple in the parade, will play patriotic music.
"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 obviously a fun time but also an opportunity to remember our veterans."
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.
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