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Images of Canton: Town Honors Those Who Sacrificed Everything

May 31, 2017 Community No Comments

While Canton canceled its Memorial Day Parade due to inclement weather, it still honored American’s veterans, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, during a program at Canton High School.

At the beginning of the program, David Gilchrist, due to be parade grand marshal, placed a wreath at the front of the auditorium and Canton resident and veteran Keith August served as emcee for the program.

“We are assembled here to honor all the men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country,” August said. “These services have been conducted continuously for more than 70 years. This is our humble tribute to those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. They will never be forgotten.”

The day featured invocation and convocation by The Rev. Linda Spiers of Trinity Episcopal Church, music by the Canton High School band and student-read addresses. Nathan Lincoln read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; Isabelle Gentile read In Flanders Fields; Megan Auseré read The American’s Creed and Theodore Babbitt read America’s Reply. Taps was performed by Lillian Grabowski and Tigger Kluessendorf.

Town Historian David K. Leff gave the Memorial Day address.

“This is a day of remembrance,” Leff began. “We are gathered together to commemorate those who, as President Lincoln so aptly put it, ‘gave the last full measure of devotion.’ I stand before you with gratitude in my heart for all who served, but especially for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this nation of high democratic ideals.  Though they are now silent, we are also joined in spirit by many who are buried in nearby cemeteries after fighting bravely for those ideals, for this community, and their families.  Among them are William Edgar Simonds who lies in the Village Cemetery in Collinsville.  In the Civil War battle of Irish Bend, Louisiana, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only Canton person ever awarded this country’s highest decoration for military valor.  This school’s address bears the name of this great American hero.”

Leff went on to praise Gilchrist, who, he said, entered the Army in 1950, trained as a machine gunner and served in Germany. He also noted the loss of the late veteran Dick Caserta, a U.S. Army veteran, and long-time Canton business man, who was also known for driving antique fire trucks in the town’s annual parade.

Leff also noted the service of World War I veteran, the Albert E. Johnson, a Collinsville native, 1911 Collinsville High School class salutatorian, Yale graduate and serviceman who died at age 25 after being wounded in a small French village. Johnson’s body was eventually laid to rest in Village Cemetery and his name later graced a local America Legion Post.

“WWI was also called the Great War and the ‘war to end all wars,’” Leff said. “Albert Johnson and Canton’s other WWI servicemen believed they were playing a role in ending war.  It tragically turned out be a false hope in their time. I believe we can best honor Johnson and all who have fought and died in our country’s conflicts by rededicating ourselves, as best we can in these perilous times, to ending wars.”

– John Fitts 

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