Astoria, Woodside gear up to celebrate Memorial Day

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Repeating a ritual they have performed for decades, communities across western Queens are coming together this weekend for Memorial Day parades and ceremonies honoring those who died for American liberty.

In Astoria the crowd will gather around a monument dedicated to Frank McManus, who at 21 became the neighborhood’s first resident to die in the Vietnam War.

In Maspeth the parade will end in front of the memorial square on Grand Avenue and 69th Street, adjacent to the firehouse that lost 19 men Sept. 11.

In Woodside patriots will march to the statue of the World War I doughboy, who stands with his round hat in his hands and a rifle resting before him, and in Glendale they will pause to salute the dead in front of a firehouse on Myrtle Avenue.

But this year’s Memorial Day will be unlike any other. For the first time, the roster of remembered names features civilians who died on American soil, mere miles from their homes, as well as hundreds of veterans clad in a different sort of American uniform.

Less than nine months after the terrorist attacks, the observance of Memorial Day no longer is just the proud repetition of a stalwart tradition, but the rallying cry of a country whose battle scars still are fresh.

“This was an undeclared war against the United States of America, and so these people, as well as all those from the Police and Fire Department, should be remembered,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, the president of the United Community Civic Association, which sponsors Sunday’s Memorial Day Ceremony at McManus Park in Astoria, at the corner of 81st Street and Ditmars Boulevard.

The ninth annual event will feature a special tribute to Sept. 11 victims, “Heroes All,” as Poveromo noted.

The Maspeth Memorial Day Parade will step off Sunday from Grand Avenue and 72nd Street with a similar theme, “Maspeth, Home of Heroes.”

The United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth has not only collected thousands of dollars to fund the parade, but also is creating a monument listing the names of Maspeth firefighters and residents who died Sept. 11 to be unveiled exactly one year after the attacks.

“They’ve been very generous,” said Eileen Hagen, the chief marshal for the 18th annual parade. “People of Maspeth always put themselves out for good causes.”

Like many other parade organizers, Hagen stressed that the event will not only remember recent casualties but also honor those who fought throughout the country’s history — especially the aging veterans who served more than half a century ago.

“If you watch those guys march down, you picture these young pups when they were first inducted into service in World War II,” she said. “Boy, in your mind you can really see them strutting down that avenue.”

Monday’s parade in Woodside not only commemorates war veterans and the lost of Sept. 11, but also three firefighters stationed in the neighborhood who died in last year’s Father’s Day hardware store explosion in Astoria.

“This Memorial Day will hold a special place in our hearts for everybody who was lost,” said parade organizer Robert Carr, who lost a nephew, 21-year-old Thomas Ashton, when the World Trade Center collapsed. “Everybody around the country, especially in New York, knows somebody who lost somebody. I think it has a special meaning of patriotism and everybody coming together on Memorial Day, no matter what parade or area they go to.”

The 64th Annual Memorial Day Parade of the Allied Veterans of Greater Ridgewood and Glendale is honoring the heroes of Sept. 11, but it is also crippled by the day’s repercussions.

Funding sources have dried up and state aid has been delayed, said Julius Landherr, the leader of Monday’s parade, who is seeking more contributions from the community.

“The people don’t realize that these parades are not a free thing,” he said.

Many also fail to realize that their freedom did not come without costs, a point the parade organizers are hoping to drive home.

“Most people think of Memorial Day as a day to barbecue, but it’s not,” Poveromo said. “In order for us to be able to barbecue, a hell of a lot of people lost their lives so we could enjoy these days of wine and roses, so to speak.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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