Springfield celebrates Memorial Day on Monday


As a member of the US Marine Corps, Gary Price of Springfield flew helicopters for evacuation from Saigon in Vietnam to Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia.

Price, who retired as a colonel in 2001, said several of his friends had been killed in helicopter crashes over the years. It was to these people that Price turned his attention on Monday.

“It’s a day of remembrance,” Price said, leaving a Memorial Day service hosted by Chatham American Legion Post 759 at Veterans Memorial Park. “It’s a sad day. It’s not a happy memorial. It’s only happy in the sense that you remember and reflect on those you’ve lost.”

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Temperatures in the 80s marked the “unofficial start” of summer on Monday.

Solemn ceremonies especially honoring servicemen and servicewomen killed in action were held Monday at Camp Butler National Cemetery and Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. At Calvary Cemetery, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Thomas John Paprocki, presided over the traditional field mass.

Some events returned live for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pool at the Nelson Recreation Center in Lincoln Park opened Monday after the Veterans Memorial Pool opened on Saturday.

At Robin Roberts Stadium, the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes held their second practice as they prepared for Wednesday’s season opener in the Prospect League as volunteers enjoyed themselves outside the stadium. The Lucky Horseshoes, in their first year of play and under new ownership, open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday.

“That’s what friends do”

Price, who attended the memorial service with his wife, Susie, said he had a list of names of friends who were killed in action.

Price said he reviews the list daily.

Greg Harris of the American Legion Post 759 stands at attention as a Chatham Fire Department flag blows in the background at the start of a Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park in Chatham.  Harris was part of a guard who fired a 21-gun salute on duty.

“I keep in touch with a lot of the families,” Price said, “because they were good friends and that’s what friends do, make sure everyone is intact.”

A job with Ducks Unlimited brought Price to central Illinois, but he continued as a helicopter pilot for the Air Evac Lifeteam.

“Sarge” Morgan of the Chatham American Legion Post said people ask him why he coordinates services like Monday’s.

“I tell them because I value my freedom,” Morgan said. “I appreciate the sacrifices they made.”

Morgan, who served in the Air National Guard for nearly 25 years and deployed on Operation Enduring Freedom, said about 20 family members’ names are on the war memorial in the center of the park. Unlike other memorials where names are reserved for soldiers killed in action, the Chatham Memorial lists the names of those who served in a branch of the military.

“We wanted it to be a living memorial,” said Morgan, who played a role in its dedication in 2000. “I wanted grandfathers and uncles and fathers to be able to bring their children and loved ones and say: “Here is my name. This is where I served. That’s what I did.'”

Presidential commemorative certificate

During the service, a Presidential Memorial Certificate was presented to Bruce Deopere, who received the certificate on behalf of his father, Franklin “Frank” Deopere, a Korean War veteran and former Chatham resident who died Jan. 25.

Chris Butler, President of Butler Funeral Homes, made the presentation.

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The engraved paper certificate was signed by President Joe Biden. The certificate is to honor the memory of deceased veterans, a program started in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.

Bruce Deopere, who lives in Petersburg, said it was a shock when he learned of the certificate.

Deopere said his father didn’t talk much about his service in Korea, but he was proud to serve his country. Deopere noted that her father was able to visit the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. as part of the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight five years ago.

Illinois touch

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Iris Miranda-Kirschner, Monday’s keynote speaker, noted that the early days of Memorial Day had an Illinois flair.

Miranda-Kirschner, a historian from the American Legion Chatham post who also served in the U.S. military, said former Civil War general and Southern Illinois resident John A. Logan had said flowers would be strewn over the graves of Civil War veterans as part of Decorating Day. .

After World War I, Decoration Day expanded to include and honor those who died serving in all of America’s wars, not just the Civil War, Miranda-Kirschner said.

Ready for opening day

About 25 members of the Lucky Horseshoes took part in the team’s first practice Sunday and the team practiced Monday ahead of Wednesday’s first game.

Jamie Toole, one of the team’s nine owners, said baseball in Springfield will have a unique look this summer.

“Baseball is our platform, not our focus,” Toole said Monday. “What I mean by that is that we’re here for a much bigger reason than baseball. Just baseball, I don’t think it works. (We’re trying) to deliver an entertainment-based product. . “

Volunteers from the Springfield Downtown-Kiwanis Club spread mulch outside where new signage for the Lucky Horseshoes was also installed at Northend Stadium.

Joe Sporher, 14, of Chatham Boy Scout Troop 48 looks on before the start of a Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Park.  The service was set up by American Legion Post 759.

“We’re ready for Wednesday night’s opener,” Toole said, noting a few University of Illinois at Springfield players were missing because they were on the NCAA Division team. II College World Series. “We’ll have them around town volunteering and being active. It’s fun to start a new chapter.”

pool time

At the Nelson Recreation Center in Lincoln Park, Tommy Zepp was enjoying opening day of the pool with his daughter, Sophie, 1, and Sophie’s mother, Ashley Allgood.

“It’s Sophie’s first day of swimming,” Zepp said. “I grew up on the North endso I was coming here.”

Jeremy Bell and LeAnn Bell just returned to Springfield from the Champaign area and were also enjoying a pool vacation with their daughter, PJ, 1.

“We look forward to spending time here,” said LeAnn Bell. “We’re thrilled. She’s thrilled. PJ loves the water.”

The Nelson pool is open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.


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