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Crowds jam Northern Blvd. at Little Neck-Doug parade

It was a hero’s march in Little Neck and Douglaston Monday as the 75th annual Memorial Day Parade advanced along Northern Boulevard to the cheers of thousands who lined the sidewalks for one of the nation’s largest Memorial Day events.

With state elections coming up in November, some major political figures attended, including Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and a host of Queens city council members and state assembly members. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall also marched.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), a retired colonel who served for 30 years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, paraded in full uniform.

But the crowd reserved its biggest cheers for the real celebrities of the day: veterans, police officers, firefighters, emergency service workers and U.S. Army reservists.

With anticipation in the air, the NYPD band kicked off the parade with a spirited rendition of “New York, New York.”

World War II veteran Sol Siegel of Bellerose was overcome with emotion as the parade passed by. “You have no idea the feeling that you have,” Siegel said. “The feeling in your heart can never show in your face.”

Parade highlights included marching units from a host of local schools, churches and community groups, military and uniformed officers groups, and some 30 fire trucks from the nearby Manhasset/Lakeville Fire District on Long Island.

An often-promised and seldom-delivered military flyover materialized this year in which two military helicopters quickly passed above the parade less than an hour after it began.

For Marshall the 2002 parade marked her second year of marching in the Little Neck-Douglaston event. She appeared to enjoy the afternoon.

“It’s wonderful,” Marshall said of the parade. “We all have a feeling of liberty, of strength and patriotism that I haven’t felt for a long time since I was a kid.”

When she finished marching, Marshall watched the remainder of the parade from the judges’ table, which offered an excellent view of performances by the Francis Lewis High School Marching Band and Junior ROTC, Irish step dancers from the Tir na Gael school and many children, including students from Douglaston’s PS 98, who sang “God Bless America” as they paraded.

The Little Neck-Douglaston parade included several events over the Memorial Day weekend: among them an Arts & Essay contest awards ceremony for area schoolchildren Friday, a Sunday awards brunch honoring parade honorees, a wreath-laying Monday at a veterans’ memorial in Douglaston and an interfaith service with many community clergy.

This year’s Douglas S. MacKay Community Service Award went to uniformed services that included the 111th Police Precinct, city firehouse Engine Co.y 313/Ladder Co. 164 in Douglaston and the Manhasset/Lakeville Fire Co. in Great Neck.

Engine Co. 313 and Ladder Co. 164 members rode atop their trucks, waving to the cheering crowd along the route.

111th Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Julio Ordonez, in his first year as the northeast Queens precinct commander, attended his first Little Neck-Douglaston parade.

“This has been very nice,” said Ordonez, a veteran of the Marines who served as a sergeant in Beirut. “And it went off without a hitch.”

Other honorees included Grand Marshal Walter Kaye; Division Marshals Col. Ron Linn, veteran John Costanza, retired Capt. Samuel Greenberg and veteran Clyde Smith; Man of the Year Jonathan Ridgeway, Woman of the Year Mary Breden and Youths of the Year Morgan McKay and Christopher Benson. Veteran Frank Ryan received the Senior Americanism Award, while volunteer Louise Leblond was bestowed the Chairman’s Appreciation Award.

More than 100 people attended the 20th annual Interfaith Service, held at St. Anastasia’s Church in Douglaston. The service featured clergy from throughout the community, including Rabbi Morton Pomerantz, the parade group chaplain; the Zion Episcopal Church and the Community Church, both of Douglaston, the Community Church and the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, both in Little Neck.

The Interfaith Service began with a heartfelt rendition of “God Bless America” by soloist Brian Donohue, with the congregation spontaneously joining in.

Monsignor Michael Cantley of St. Anastasia’s Church spoke of the importance of memorializing the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and remembering that freedom has a price.

“Everyone of us has to make a determination to do it for ourselves,” he said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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