Herald and Journal, June 7, 1999

Memories of Memorial Day


In last Sunday's USA weekend, I read a little trivia quiz about Memorial Day.

It asked, "What was Memorial Day's original name?"

The answer? Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a day on which soldiers' graves were decorated with flowers. It was in 1971 that Congress set Memorial Day on the last Monday of May.

As a child, the most memorable thing for me about the traditional Memorial Day holiday, celebrated on May 30, was that it was the first day we were allowed to swim every summer. No matter how hot we kids thought it was, we weren't allowed to swim until Memorial Day.

By setting a specific date, my mother must have saved herself a lot of whining and complaining. When Memorial Day came, we always took the first dip of the year.

One Memorial Day, my Girl Scout troop was paired with a group of older scouts to decorate the graves of veterans. We marched in the Memorial Day Parade through the streets of Mound. We made our way out to the cemetery. My partner and I found the designated grave and planted an American flag.

Though this was back in the early 60s, I still remember the man's name, Jerome Dewey. I can still see our group marching up to the cemetery.

"When was Memorial Day first celebrated?" The Decoration Day tradition began in 1868. Civil War General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic chose the original date of May 30.

My freshman year in high school was the last one I spent in Mound. I remember someone that sat behind me in algebra class that year. His name was Bob DeVinney.

Bob was new to Grandview Junior High School, having come over from Our Lady of the Lake School that fall. He was a nice guy, funny and sweet. Then my family moved to the Watertown School District in the spring.

In 1969, Bob DeVinney was killed in Vietnam. Every year, I look for his name in the Memorial Day notices in the paper. It says, "Love's greatest gift, Remembrance." I think about Bob and the other sweet, funny guys that were lost.

The celebration of Memorial Day will always bring back poignant memories. My mother passed away on May 25, 1997. That year Memorial Day fell on May 26.

We met with the minister to plan Mother's funeral that day. Her memorial service was held on May 31. I miss her very much.

With every sorrow, we can always look for consolation. My grandson, Christian Triplett, celebrates his birthday on May 30. He is three years old now, a blond-haired little boy with the sweetest smile. That smile is the happy part of my Memorial Day remembrance.

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