Since 1928, the Naperville Memorial Day Parade has been a local tradition, paying tribute to all men and woman and their families that have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
When the 2014 Memorial Day Parade steps off at 10:30AM, spectators wearing red Buddy Poppies and waving American flags again will line the parade route to honor Gold Star families riding in vintage vehicles and classic cars. Unit by unit, veterans representing all branches of service, scouts, and members of service organizations will step in time to marching bands performing memorable patriotic tunes.
The 2014 Parade, honoring Jack Shiffler as Parade Marshall and Cliff Preston as the Officer of the Day, will begin at Centennial Beach along Jackson, head toward Washington St. where more than 80 entries will turn north, continue to Benton, turn east and then end up in Central Park.
Memorial Day Observance in Central Park
At 12:15PM, another special Memorial Day Observance will begin in Central Park when the public can pause to show respect and gratitude for sacrifice. The Naperville Municipal Band will take the stage in the Community Concert Center and the 40-member Neuqua Valley Treble Choir under the direction of Jay Kellner will perform two songs.
During the 30-minute ceremony, this year’s keynote speaker will be 15-year-old Sarvasya Raghuvanshi, who recently took state honors in the American Legion Annual Oratorical Contest.
This year it occurred to the volunteer Memorial Day Parade Committee to promote the Memorial Day Observance in Central Park as an independent event in addition to the parade. Individuals and families are welcome to find a bench in Central Park about noon.
Patriotic music and tributes will begin at 12:15PM, complete with the ceremonial laying of the wreath at the memorials.
Parking is available at the Van Buren Parking Deck, one block from Central Park.
The American Legion annually sponsors the Oratorical Contest for high school students. The topic for the speeches is the U.S. Constitution.
This year, the local winner sponsored by Naperville American Legion Post 43 was Sarvasva (Savvy) Raghuvanshi, a sophomore at Neuqua Valley High School. Raghuvanshi went on to win the Department of Illinois State Contest in Peoria on March 1 where he was awarded with a $2,000 college scholarship.
On April 5, Raghuvanshi participated in the National Contest held in Indianapolis, along with 52 other representatives from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and France.
France sends a participant because Paris was the location of the first American Legion Post in March 1919, following the end of World War I.
“Savvy performed superbly, as usual, but lost in the quarter-finals to a senior high school student from Pennsylvania, who then proceeded to become the second-place winner in the finals,” said Lee Lindberg who attended the competition in Indianapolis.
“For several years, Don Hennessy has served as the Post 43 Chairman for the Oratorical Contest,” said Lindberg. “Don, along with Jim Vahle and I were there to support Savvy. We were extremely proud of his efforts, and the ‘good news’ is that he is scheduled to deliver that same speech on Memorial Day at the band shell program following the parade. All of Naperville should come to see and listen. Everyone will be proud!”
When PN learned that Raghuvanshi would be the featured speaker during the Memorial Day Observance in Central Park, a photo shoot was arranged at the American Legion Post Home on Chicago Avenue with the three veterans who followed the young orator to the national competition.
“I am very thankful to the Neuqua Valley Social Studies Department and the English Department for helping me love our nation and public speaking,” said Raghuvansi. “I’m also thankful to my principal, Dr. Bob McBride. He’s been really supportive. He himself is a great orator and I’ve gotten to spend time with him on the Principal’s Advisory Council and a leadership course he brought to Neuqua.”
Raghuvanshi, who was born in India, has lived most of his 15 years in Illinois, the past five in Naperville. Noting that he was honored to represent Post 43, he also expressed gratitude “for this great opportunity.”
When at Gregory Middle School, he participated in the Memorial Day Parade as flautist and drum major.
“I am humbled to be able to speak on our duties to our country on this fitting national holiday,” said Raghuvanshi.
Judge Don Hennessy served in the U.S. Army on reserve duty from September 1950 to March 1955 which included a couple weeks annual active duty each summer at Camp McCoy, Wis., then two years active duty from April 1955 to March 1957. He spent his last 15 months in Korea, followed by reserve duty until July 1960.
Lee Lindberg served in the Army; active duty 1951-1953 and then inactive reserves until 1958. Prior to becoming a member of Post 43 27 years ago, Lindberg was a member of the American Legion in Forest Lake, Minn.
“I served in the Orient, but was fortunate to not be in an area of combat,” Lindberg said.
Jim Vahle served in the U.S. Army from 1967-70 during the Cold War as a member of the 14th Cavalry, stationed on the East-West German border in the Fulda Gap.
“The Fulda Gap was the historical invasion route to Western Europe,” Vahle noted. “We patrolled the border known as the ‘death strip’ and trained to counter a Soviet invasion.”
Vahle has been a member of the American Legion for 45 years, ten of them with Post 43.
As a member of the American Legion since about 1970, Hennessy provided some interesting history about the building where PN took the photo for the cover. Owned by the American Legion Post 43, the property on Chicago Avenue was purchased in 1947 for $12,000.
“The building was financed by many Bonds which were purchased by WWII Veterans, which Bonds were secured by a mortgage on the land and building,” said Hennessy.
“The second floor is called the Post Home. It’s used for American Legion Trustee Meetings, Executive Committee and other committee meetings, Boy Scout meetings, high school Oratorical Contests and Junior High School Speech Contests regarding the U.S. Constitution.”
The small office at the front of the second floor is rented to the Firemen’s Union, and the Post has access to it for its contests.
The first floor, basement and rear patio is rented to Features Bar & Grill Inc.
“The first floor tenant prior to Features was Dave’s Flower Shop,” added Hennessy, who said he didn’t know tenants prior to Dave’s Flower Shop.
“The second floor at one time was rented by someone who gave dancing lessons, but I don’t know the details.”
During the recent Past Commanders’ Dinner of the American Legion Post 43, Wayne Fischer issued a request to learn the location of the Armory in Naperville that’s referenced in the Naperville Clarion in 1919. Does anybody know where the Armory was?
Naperville loves its parades and its history! Have a safe and thoughtful Memorial Day.
Savvy Raghuvanshi Quotes
“Studies indicate that only one American out of every thousand can name the rights that our 1st Amendment grants us. Why can’t most of us remember these five basic liberties? Why don’t we care about our Constitution and our rights?”
“These freedoms are not, and never have been, meant to be taken for granted. We must not waste the immense effort and forethought our Founding Fathers poured into our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We ought to take the initiative to learn about and embrace these safeguards of our liberties.”
“Now many Americans have forgotten the dedication and prudence that went into the protection of our rights. How can we remain ignorant of what has kindly been bestowed upon us, when so many around the globe wish they could have our freedoms?”
“Though we, the people, may occasionally make mistakes, we are granted the power and freedom to fix them. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the greatness of our Constitution.”