“This is incredible. I’m 95. At my age, you don’t get many awards.”
That’s Larry Aasen’s reaction to being named grand marshal of the 2018 Memorial Day parade.
The World War II airborne sergeant — and 55-year Westport resident — will ride the route from Riverside Avenue down the Post Road, and up Myrtle Avenue to Veterans Green, on Monday, May 28. There, he’ll give the keynote address.
Aasen — and many other Westporters — hope the 3rd time’s the charm. The 2 previous Memorial Day parades have been canceled due to weather. The grand marshals delivered their addresses in the Town Hall auditorium.
Aasen has a lot to talk about.
He was born in a log cabin in the middle of a North Dakota snowstorm. There was no electricity, running water, central heating — not even a bathroom.
Aasen rose to sergeant in the 13th Airborne. After training in North Carolina, he was sent to France. His division had 20-person gliders, with no protection. The mission was to drop behind enemy lines, and destroy anything of value. Gliders had a 70% casualty rate, Aasen says.
His job was cryptographer, encoding and decoding secret messages. He had a security clearance from the FBI.
After his discharge in 1946, Aasen earned a journalism degree from the University of North Dakota. He headed east, for a master’s at Boston University.
Aasen moved to New York, “to seek my fortune.” He spent 14 years with New York Life Insurance, rising to vice president of public relations, then 20 years with the Better Vision Institute on campaigns urging Americans to get their eyes checked. Aasen worked with Bob Hope, Muhammad Ali and other celebrities on those projects. (He’s also met 6 US presidents.)
In 1963, he, his wife Martha and their young children moved to Westport. “We needed more room than a New York apartment,” he explains. “There were a lot of media people here, and they loved it.”
He and Martha live in the same Ellery Lane house they bought over half a century ago. He calls it “the best investment we ever made.”
Aasen served 17 years on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). His other volunteer activities include the Democratic Town Committee, Y’s Men, Rotary Club and Saugatuck Congregational Church.
Larry and Martha Aasen have not missed a Memorial Day parade in 54 years. This year, he’ll have a special role in it.
A well-deserved honor for one of Westport’s favorite 95-year-olds.