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Naperville
Friday, June 24, 2022

Growing up in Naperville – Ron’s 78th Memorial Day Parade

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April showers bring May flowers! How many times have you heard that very old statement?

For me, the month of May has many memories, the first was seeing blossoms open on our apple tree and cherry tree when I was five! Mother’s Day was always special as I lived with my Great Grandma Jane Goodge, my Grandma Goodge and, of course, my mother.

There always was a gathering at our house for the ladies!

At age five, I also marched in my first Memorial Day Parade. In those days, all the school children marched in the parade with their teacher, sometimes accompanied by a few parents. I carried a bouquet of lilacs and my mother met me at Naperville Cemetery where I put the flowers on my great grandpa’s grave. He fought in the Civil War and is buried there near the G.A.R. Monument.

I recall turning to my mother and saying, “I’m not doing this again. It’s too hot and I’m sweating.”

Mother’s answer to me was, “YES! YOU ARE!”

Time marches on. This year I will be in the Memorial Day Parade for the 78th time!

In 1947, I got into the Ellsworth Grade School Band. That year was the first time I marched and played in the parade. In those days, Naperville was a small town of about 5,000 residents. When the Memorial Day service was over at the Naperville Cemetery, Mr. Koerner, our conductor, would put all the bands together (Naper, Ellsworth, Ss. Peter and Paul, junior high and high schools would join the Naperville Municipal Band) and we’d march back through downtown as one huge band.

I remember marching alongside my dad. He was so proud as I was the fourth generation of my family to play in the City band.

Well, here we are in the month of May and the 2022 Memorial Day Parade is on the third Monday, May 30. When I was growing up, the parade always was on May 30!

We’d decorate our bicycles with red, white and blue crepe paper, put American flags on the handle bars and we always had a flag on display in our yard.

This day lets us pay tribute to all who have sacrificed, served and are serving, and especially to those who never came back.

I recently counted up the number of my family relatives that have served or are serving and here’s what I discovered: Three served in the Civil War, 7 in World War I, 6 in World War II, a son who served in the Army (1981-83), and a grandson currently on active duty in South Korea who just made Sergeant.

In 2003, our daughter, Gerri (Kehn) and her husband Fred Thompson (1942-2015), former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, were here for Memorial Day and the rededication of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” sculpture in Burlington Square Park. Fred rode with Mayor George Pradel in the parade. Afterward, Fred stated he’d never seen a town with the patriotism that Naperville displays for our Veterans.

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Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.

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