Around 20 parades are set to take place across the region Memorial Day weekend, with Newingtonâ€™s being one of the most beloved. The annual Newington Memorial Day Parade will step off Saturday, May 27, at 10:30 a.m. in rain or sunshine at the intersection of Main Street and East Robbins Avenue.
After heading through downtown Newington, the procession will go down Garfield Street past Mill Pond Park and disperse. A memorial ceremony will follow in the lobby of Newington Town Hall.
The Newington Kiwanis Club has played an integral role in parade activities for many decades, beginning with its annual Pre-Memorial Day Salute a month in advance. The goal of this event is to stir up excitement while helping the parade committee raise money to continue the tradition.
This yearâ€™s event took place at Paradise Restaurant in New Britain, where the club holds its monthly meetings. At least a dozen local veterans attended, along with parade officials.
Parade Chairman and Brigadier General Francis Evon told a small crowd how the town of East Hartford cancelled its parade this year due to a lack of funding and coordination. The CT National Guard Colonel credited local support with Newingtonâ€™s parade going on without a hitch.
â€śWeâ€™re in much better shape than East Hartford and itâ€™s due to organizations like the Kiwanis - civic groups who coordinate throughout the year,â€ť he said.
The parade is also unique in its safety protocol, as one of the only with a detailed security plan, the colonel pointed out.
Committee Vice Chairman Sgt. Major Ken Oâ€™Brien and member Jim Murphy compiled a booklet with short biographies and photographs of all 30 Newington residents who were killed in war. Presented for the first time at the 2016 parade, the booklet is enhanced as more information is collected.
The Kiwanis Club built the monument in front of Newington Town Hall inscribed with these menâ€™s names. The town has lost soldiers in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
â€śWe have never lost any of our residents in the Persian Gulf, although apparently that war is far from over,â€ť Oâ€™Brien said. â€śRegardless of how or why they went into the service, these men did their duty and then never came home.â€ť
Parade Grand Marshal Al Ginn was an air traffic controllerÂ on the aircraft carrier Valley Forge in the Korean War. Ginn, 84, graduated from Newington High School with the Class of 1950 and went on to manage Cashway Lumber in Newington. He served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955 and was a Newington town councilor for four years.
Ginnâ€™s late brother-in-law Julian Rudek died during World War II on the U.S.S. Barbel in the South Pacific.
â€śHis three brothers were already in the service and he just didnâ€™t feel right about his deferment, so he gave it up to join the U.S. Navy,â€ť Ginn explained, telling the story of his service.
Like many other families during that time, Rudekâ€™s was not informed of his death right away.
â€śThey were sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out,â€ť Ginn said.
All of the townâ€™s brave warriors will be remembered at the parade. Many families of veterans of those killed in combat will be honoring their loved ones with a Flag of Appreciation from the Newington/Wethersfield Womenâ€™s Club.
Club President Josephine Late bought three for her own family members this year.
â€śThis is a great way to thank and honor those who gave so much to keep us safe,â€ť she said.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.