TALLMADGE — Paying homage to 14 fallen local soldiers is the focus as volunteers finalize preparations for the city’s 150th consecutive Memorial Day parade. A group of women from Tallmadge organized the first parade after the Civil War, according to Jim Forsythe, the commander of the Kneil-Lawrentz American Legion Post 255. 

"The first Memorial Day was May 30, 1868," he says, "when a little group of wives, mothers and sisters of men who had given their lives for their country went to the cemetery with flowers. That was the first parade and for many years, the parade formed in the park led by veterans and sons of veterans, always with band music. Afterwards, in recent years, American Legion Post 255 took charge of the parade and services."

This year’s parade is scheduled to get under way at 10 a.m. on May 28 from the parking lot of Our Lady of Victory Church, 73 North Ave. Participants will proceed from North Avenue to Tallmadge Circle, heading left at Southwest Avenue to the entrance of the city’s cemetery.

A ceremony at the Tallmadge City Cemetery will immediately follow the parade, honoring 14 soldiers from Tallmadge who gave their life for their country. Michael Rorar, the city’s service director, says surprises are in store which he does not want to divulge beforehand.

Forsythe will lead the observance recognizing Civil War soldier Sylvester Mathews; World War II soldiers Claude W. Hoffman, Mike Molnar, Arthur E Rutherford, John W Rutherford, William Fox, James R Shears, Doyle Simpson and Robert M. Imhoff; Vietnam soldiers Timothy M. Kranshan, Wesley L. Woodford and John L. Henderson; and Iraq soldiers Daniel N. Deyarmin Jr. and Lucas Emch. High school students and members of a Marine and Navy ROTC will take part. 

"I’m happy to see young people getting involved," Forsythe says, adding sometimes people merely view Memorial Day as a day off, ignoring the significance of its origins. Forsythe himself figures he’s only missed four of the city’s annual Memorial Day parades and that’s when he was deployed by the U.S. Navy.  He says he is heartened by what he senses is an upswell in interest in honoring veterans.

The Tallmadge American Legion Post with help from local Girl, Boy and Cub Scout troops, plus Brownies, will decorate the graves of veterans with flags on May 25. The legion post has organized the parade since the 1950s.

At press time Forsythe said veterans from World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, will march or ride in the Tallmadge Memorial Day Parade. Tallmadge traditionally does not designate a parade marshal, according to Forsythe. "We don’t have any floats or tractors or anything like that in our parade — we stay away from all of that," Forsythe says. "We do it to honor the veterans and any of them who want to join us are welcome."

The weekend of festivities will get started with a patriotic concert and a pie and ice cream social on May 26 at 6 p.m. Tallmadge Circle Park. The John Trapani Big Band is scheduled to perform and there will be a special presentation by John W. King as Abraham Lincoln.

A pancake breakfast sponsored by the Tallmadge Chamber of Commerce at the Tallmadge Community Center, 80 Community Road, will precede the parade. Breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon and includes all the pancakes you can eat, plus sausage, orange juice, coffee, tea and milk. The cost will be $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 4 through 10. Youngsters 3 and under will be free.

Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, ewalsh@recordpub.com or @EllinWalsh_RPC.