Beautiful Weather Leads To Big Turnout For Memorial Day Parade

Pictured, from left, are Xavier Nickerson, Carter Nickerson and Paxton Nickerson putting their patriotism on display at the Jamestown Memorial Day parade. P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb

As if by design, a morning of uncertain weather transformed into sunshine and blue skies just in time for the beginning of the Jamestown Memorial Day parade.

The parade, which formed at the conjunction of Fourth and Washington streets, continued down Fourth Street and turned left onto Prendergast Avenue on its way toward Lakeview Cemetery, was filled with members of local patriotic organizations, school marching bands and color guards and elected officials.

And of course, the sidewalks were lined with plenty of enthusiastic residents, waving flags and cheering on the parade as it passed.

Upon reaching Lakeview Cemetery, the parade dispersed, but festivities continued inside at Soldiers’ Circle. A more somber gathering occurred there, to reflect upon the purpose of Memorial Day and remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Amidst the playing the patriotic songs and the dedication of wreathes to the fallen, Retired Navy Capt. John Plumb delivered a poignant speech about some of Jamestown’s finest and what Memorial Day means.

“Memorial Day goes all the way back to 1866, right after the Civil War,” Plumb said. “It started in a small town in upstate New York, Waterloo, where the residents held a parade, gathered in a cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of union soldiers and gave speeches to collectively remember their war dead. Other towns held similar events and the ritual quickly spread throughout the whole country. So except maybe for this microphone … our ceremony here and others like it around the country are not really that different from the first ceremony held 151 years ago.”

Plumb emphasized the importance of stopping on Memorial Day and contemplating the true costs of war, and those who have paid those costs. He then reinforced that notion by honoring fallen soldiers of past American wars, all of whom called Chautauqua home before they made the ultimate sacrifice for their, and our, country.

Plumb recalled Jeremiah Drake, fallen Civil War veteran, and Baptist minister from Westfield. Drake joined the Army as a captain and eventually rose to the rank of colonel. He died in 1864 from wounds he sustained from leading a charge on horseback at the battle of Cold Harbor. He would be one of 327 men from the Chautauqua regiment to fall in the Civil War.

“Let’s remember Elmer Nelson,” Plumb continued. “He was from Jamestown and deployed to France in 1918 (in World War I) with Echo Company of the 108th Infantry Regiment, a New York state Army National Guard unit that still exists today. On Sept. 29, 1918, the first day of the battle of St. Quentin Canal, Echo Company joined the Allied assault against the German Hindenburg line. That assault was the first battle in which the Allies broke through the German lines, and it was a key turning point in the war. Elmer Nelson was one of 10 men from Jamestown that died on the same day in France — serving in the same company, on the same day, in the same battle.”

Plumb next remembered Thomas Lockwood from Jamestown, who deployed to the Pacific in the Navy Submarine Force during World War II, whose task was to disrupt Japanese shipping. His ship, the U.S.S. Bonefish, S.S. 223, was sunk by Japanese forces, killing all 85 men on board. The remains of the ship’s crew was never recovered.

He honored Frances Carlson, who served and died in the Korean War, and John Franklin Berry, who served and died in the Vietnam War.

“We know our country still struggles with Vietnam,” Plumb said. “The hard truth is, the men that fought there were not treated well when they came home. Many men fought in it — many here today, and many more buried in this cemetery.”

Finally, Plumb remembered Pvt. Charles Cooper Jr. and Staff Sgt. J.C. Mattison.

“I didn’t know (Cooper) personally, but I’m sure many here did,” Plumb said. “He graduated from Jamestown High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Army. Less than a year later, he and a fellow soldier were killed in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device. He was 19 years old — he’s buried here in this cemetery. Staff Sgt. J.C. Mattison from Celoron is also buried here in Lakeview, and he was killed by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq during the battle of Fallujah.”

Plumb searched for a common thread that connects the tragic yet gallant stories of these fallen soldiers. What he found was that, when our country called, these men answered. And honoring the sacrifices of the fallen is a bond that we all can share as proud and patriotic citizens of our country.

Some organizations represented in the parade were: Jamestown High School marching band and color guard, Jefferson, Persell and Washington Middle Schools marching band and color guard, the Jamestown Municipal Orchestra, the American Legion, the Blue Star Mothers, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Jamestown Shrine Club, Xplosion Cheer and Gear, the Jamestown Moose Lodge and Past and Present Paranormal. Jeff Bloomquist also made an appearance as Abraham Lincoln.