Tag Archives: Westport Memorial Day parade

A Special Memorial Day Speech

On Friday, I posted the Stalling family’s 1969 (or ’70) Memorial Day parade video as the weekly “Flashback.” It provided a unique look at Westport’s long-ago, yet timeless, community event.

Yesterday, Ed Stalling sent along another video.

In 1995 — the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II — his father Ed Sr. was grand marshal of Westport’s parade.

The ceremony was moved inside, to Town Hall, because of rain. The auditorium was filled — and silent — as Stalling recounted his service, and the crucial campaigns in Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

He wrapped up his remarks with a poignant and powerful reminder of the meaning of Memorial Day.

Here is Ed’s speech. On the eve of this great holiday — as the ranks of our World War II veterans dwindle daily — his words are more important than ever.

Friday Flashback #92

In honor of Monday’s Memorial Day parade, here’s a look back nearly 50 years.

Ed Stalling posted this family home movie on YouTube. Shot in 1969 or ’70 on Riverside Avenue — mostly opposite King’s Texaco (now Sunny Daes) — it shows cops, veterans, the Red Cross, state police cars (with comical 1-bubblegum lights on top), Indian Guides, Little Leaguers, and the Long Lots Junior High band.

Very briefly at the end there’s a shot of the Long Lots band downtown, opposite the old post office (now Design Within Reach).

Half a century ago, the Vietnam War raged. Our country was torn apart — politically, socially and culturally.

But — as shown in the video — Westport had a great Memorial Day parade.

We will on Monday, too. See you there!

 

Larry Aasen Leads Memorial Day Parade

“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.

Larry Aasen, at last year’s Memorial Day parade.

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.)

When they posed for this photo, President Obama said to Larry Aasen, “let’s put the rose (Martha Aasen) between 2 thorns.”

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.

Memorial Day Parade Canceled; Ceremony Set For Town Hall, 10 am

For the 2nd year in a row, bad weather has forced the cancellation of Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

A ceremony — including a speech by grand marshal and World War II veteran Ed Vebell — is set for 10 a.m., in the Town Hall auditorium.

See you there!

Watch The Parade — Then Send Us Your Photos!

The Memorial Day parade is one of Westport’s favorite town events.

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch from. Everyone has a favorite band, float or marcher to photograph.

But why share them only with a few hundred dear pals, casual acquaintances and random how’d-they-get-on-my-list Facebook “friends”?

Tomorrow — weather permitting — let all of Westport see “your” Memorial Day parade. Send a few (not all!) of your photos to “06880” (email: dwoog@optonline.net). Deadline: 1 p.m. Please include brief identification, if needed, and of course your own name.

I’ll post some (not all!) in the afternoon.

And be creative! We want special photos, for our special parade.

Westport celebrates Memorial Day in many ways. Here's a simple shot from the parade route.

Westport celebrates Memorial Day in many ways. Here’s a simple shot from the parade route.

Y’s Men Wisely Saved Last Year’s Float

It’s a Westport tradition: Every year, the Y’s Men win Westport’s Memorial Day “Best Float” prize.

They didn’t last year — but there was a good reason.

The parade was canceled, due to rain.

Yesterday and today — despite predictions of more bad weather — they headed to Vince Penna’s garage, and took last year’s float out of mothballs.

Here’s a sneak preview.

Y’s Men president Jay Dirnberger puts the finishing touches on the float. (Photos/Mike Guthman)

To see the real thing, head to the parade on Monday.

Or — if it comes to that — the one in 2018.

Friday Flashback #41

Westport’s Memorial Day parade seems timeless.

I don’t know when it began — perhaps in 1868, when “Decoration Day” first honored Civil War veterans — but anyone now alive who grew up here has strong memories of the downtown tradition.

The route changes. So do businesses along the way. And of course, fashions.

But — as these photos (courtesy of David Barton) show — Memorial Day in Westport always draws a crowd.

When the parade marched south on Main Street, the Post Road was anchored by Colgan’s drug store and luncheonette. Next to it were (in order) Colonial restaurant, Gristede’s grocery store and Marvel’s Bakery. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The parade then made a quick turn onto Taylor Place, before ending at Jesup Green.

Ed Vebell: Monday’s Grand Marshal Has Stories To Tell

Everyone loves Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

It’s the one day each year that our sophisticated, hedge fund-filled suburb turns into an All-American village. The parade is filled with countless cops, youth soccer players, Y’s Men, Suzuki violinists, firefighters, library and Westport Country Playhouse representatives, and (of course) military vets and school band glockenspielers.

Everyone else who is not marching is on the sidewalk, enjoying the show.

But when the parade ends, not everyone makes it over to Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

That’s a shame. That’s where the real meaning of Memorial Day takes place. It’s a quick half hour of patriotic music, a few greetings from dignitaries.

And a speech from the grand marshal.

Ed Vebell, in his Compo Beach studio.

This year’s marshal is Ed Vebell. He’s that increasingly rare — but particularly important — American: a World War II veteran.

Ed turned 96 yesterday. He still lives alone, a few steps from the beach.

It takes him a while to get ready in the morning. He’ll get up extra early on Monday. He won’t speak long — his eyesight is going, and he can’t read speeches that well — but, he says, “I’ve got some war stories to tell.”

Does he ever.

Ed joined the Army Air Force in 1942. A talented artist-reporter, he was dropped behind enemy lines in Algiers, Italy and France. He’d sketch enemy equipment and positions, then be picked up 3 days later.

“I was a good target for snipers,” Ed says. “The photographers just took their pictures and ducked down. I had to stand up and draw.”

Of course, he adds, “when you’re 20 you think you’re invincible.”

He had good reason to think that. He tumbled from the Swiss Alps in a Jeep (he landed in snow-covered trees). He was lost at sea for 11 days. A sword pierced his chest. He was hit by a locomotive.

But he survived. And, Ed says, “it was all really something. I was a young kid from Chicago who had never even seen the ocean.”

An Ed Vebell illustration made in Italy, in 1944.

When the war ended, Ed stayed in France for nearly 3 years. He worked for a French newspaper, enjoyed the Folies Bergère, met Charles de Gaulle and Edith Piaf — and covered the Nuremberg trials.

Returning to America, he worked for Readers Digest, Time and Life. He illustrated books and advertisements.

He also represented the US as a fencer, at Helskinki in 1952. (He made the semifinals.)

Oh yeah: A book he wrote about his experiences — “An Artist at War” — comes out soon.

Ed Vebell definitely has stories to tell.

No one should miss them on Monday.

Ed Vebell’s book will be published next month.

 

 

Surf’s Up!

It sure doesn’t feel like May 25.

Alert “06880” reader Matt Murray captured these shots at soggy Compo Beach a short while ago:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photos/Matt Murray)

Canal Road is closed due to flooding. Police warn of potential flooding elsewhere in town.

Meanwhile, Cross Highway and Prospect Road were closed due to downed trees and wires.

More rain is forecast for tomorrow — but temperatures will rise to about 71.

The weekend — and Memorial Day — could be cloudy, with temperatures hovering around 70.

That’s okay. After last year’s rainout, we’re ready for a parade.

Weather or not.

May 25, 2017 - Ed Simek - Compo

(Photo/Ed Simek)

Calling All WWII Vets

More than 70 years ago, you served your country.

Later this month, Westport honors you.

If you’re a World War II veteran who would like to participate in this year’s Memorial Day parade, please call Ted Diamond: 203-227-7680 or 203-216-5609.

You can walk or ride. Your uniform may or may not fit. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are there!

Ted Diamond and his wife Carol, on Veterans Green before the 2014 Memorial Day ceremony. Ted — now 99, and the 2007 grand marshal — flew 50 missions during World War II.