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Memorial Day memories

05/27/03 12:00AM By Linda DuCharme
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(Host) Fifty years ago, Memorial Day in commentator Linda DuCharme's home town was an important event.

(DuCharme) Memorial Day was close to my favorite holiday as a child in Stowe during the early 1940s. On that day all the girls around my age wore white dresses and carried little American flags and bunches of lilacs. We marched in the parade behind a beautiful majorette as we proceeded from the center of town to the local cemetery.

Our majorette, a high school senior, had come into possession of a white and gold uniform somewhere along the line and became by default the leader of the parade. The uniformless high school band played only one tune, "The Old Gray Mare She Ain't What She used To Be." The tempo ranged from sprightly through town to a proper dirge as we approached the gates of the cemetery.

Any service person who was home on leave or disability marched if they were able and cheers and tears ruled the day. The parade formed at the Memorial Building, as did every other function in town worth mentioning. Fittingly the white painted honor role with the names in black was displayed there, a constant reminder of local residents who were serving our country.

A gold star next to a name meant killed in action; a silver star meant missing. My best friend, Mavis Mansfield's brother Stanley was missing. We believed the honor role was how you found out if a member of your family had been injured or lost. On the way home from school every day my friends and I diligently checked the honor role. I was afraid I would have to tell my mother the awful news if a star should show up next to the name of my dad, David V. Case. She never knew my fears. With a husband and five brothers all on active duty plus four children to care for, she had plenty on her mind.

The parade and the scent of lilacs intermingle in my memories in a dreamlike quality. Up Maple Street we walked, then turned down the dirt road. We sang "Anchors Aweigh" as the parade paused on the bridge and a wreath was tossed into the river in honor of those in the Navy. Then we sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and "From the Halls of Montezuma" for the Army and Marines. Our lilacs, a bit droopy at that point, were placed on the graves along with our little flags, and the band played its mournful tune.

In a few years there would be a wild celebration on the steps of the Memorial Building when we sang and danced for the joy of the day: the war was over. My father came home to eventual blindness and life would evermore be tinged with the events of those years. The honor role was eventually moved from the front lawn of the Memorial Building to its basement. Stanley Mansfield never came home.

I'm Linda DuCharme from Brookline.
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