A Memorial Day to Remember


 On Monday, May 30, before enjoying the beautiful holiday beach day, many came out to pay their respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country, at the annual Rockaway Memorial Day Parade and ceremonies. This year’s events were even more significant as Memorial Circle was rededicated for its 75th anniversary.

Monday’s services began with a Mass at St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor, followed by a brief ceremony outside at the Four Chaplain’s monument. The parade followed shortly after, with members of the American Legion Daniel M. O’Connell Post 272 leading the way, followed by the Knights of Columbus, Channel View School for Research and its marching band, Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 21, St. Francis de Sales honoring L.Cpl, Michael Glover, a group honoring Lt. James B. Egan, a group honoring PFC John P. McGonigal, Cub Scout Troop 147 and more. The parade proceeded down Rockaway Beach Boulevard to Memorial Circle for the next ceremony.

The ceremony at Memorial Circle was even more notable than usual this year as it served as a rededication of Memorial Circle on the park’s 75th anniversary.  American Legion member and veteran Mike Honan led the ceremony, thanking Parade Chairman Jim Trainor for arranging the parade and the Belle Harbor Garden Club (BHGC) which  in 1947, was able to get NYC Parks to dedicate the space as Memorial Circle.

One member of the BHGC, Rosemary, spoke on behalf of the group, explaining the park’s origins. “In 1947, the Belle Harbor Garden Club designed and planned this tribute to honor these young men who left their homes and families in Rockaway that died in lands far away. At this Memorial Circle rededication, we pay tribute to the service members of our community who have given their lives for our country,” she said. She thanked Maureen Walsh and Jeanette Bernstein, members of the BHGC and Lisena Garden Center for helping make the recent revitalization of the park possible. Honan also thanked those in the community who made donations towards the renovation.

Honan then honored the parade grand marshal, Army veteran Norman Lunde, who due to illness, could not attend. He also paid respects to the late Larry Eichen, a WWII Navy veteran, who on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans, would attend the ceremony each year and read the names of Rockaway’s fallen servicemembers. Eichen passed away earlier this year.

This year, the honor of reading the names was given to Rabbi Matt Carl of Temple Beth-El, where Eichen was a congregant. Prior to the reading of the names, Honan presented Rabbi Carl with a special keepsake. While the renovation of Memorial Circle took place this year, Lisena unearthed one of the original plaques from 1947 dedicated to Lt. Bernard H. Weiner, for which the local Jewish War Veterans post is named. All of the name plaques were replaced around 25 years ago, so Honan said to find an original plaque for Lt. Weiner, was “serendipity.” He presented the plaque to Rabbi Carl for safekeeping at Temple Beth-El. Rabbi Carl then read the names of the fallen.

Honan reminded the crowd to remember the 645,000 American servicemembers who have died since WWI and the ceremony concluded with a wreath laying at Memorial Circle. Then, for the first time in years, the parade regrouped and continued to the Doughboy and Doughgirl monuments on Beach 94th Street, where another ceremony was held, concluding the Memorial Day events.

By Katie McFadden

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