Whitehall pays tribute


H enry Gurney stood at the lectern — the emotion audible in his voice — and read aloud a list of names.

Holding back tears, he said each name one at a time: Lawrence Lowell, Morgan Parker, Frank Riley, David Rivette, James Ross, Paul Roth, Ray Beckwith, and several dozen others.

They were peers and classmates, friends and family, and they all lost their lives serving their country.

Whitehall paid tribute Monday to the men and women who died defending America.

A couple of hundred people gathered at Riverside Veteran’s Park for the annual Memorial Day ceremony to pay their respects to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The ceremony included remarks from Jim Lafayette of the American Legion, Revs. Michael Flannery and Roberta Proper, Julie Eagan, the exalted ruler of the Whitehall Elks, Mayor Peter Telisky, Supervisor George Armstrong and Barbara Riley, president of American Legion Post 83 auxiliary.

There were also performances by the Whitehall High School band, the Memorial Day address, the playing of taps, poetry readings by elementary school students, the singing of “Amazing Grace” by Jeannine Macura, and the placing of the wreath by Gold Star mother Katherine Aiken.

 

Reading the roll

But the most somber, and perhaps the most important part of the ceremony, was reserved for Gurney. As is tradition, Gurney read the names of every local serviceman who was killed or is missing in action.

A World War II veteran, Gurney was most emotional reading the names of his peers.

“It is an honor to do this, but it doesn’t get any easier,” he said.

Retired Lt. Col. Michael Rocque, who delivered the Memorial Day address, chose to focus his remarks on World War II in recognition of Gurney and this year’s grand marshal, John Putorti, who served aboard the USS Walker as a radar operator.

Rocque, who graduated from Whitehall in 1976 and served 20 years in the Army, said he counted 1,042 names on the monument, of those who served during the second global war: Men like Putorti, who grew up on Mountain Street and was one of three brothers who served.

He told the crowd that, per capita, the number of enlisted men from Whitehall who served in the war was among the highest in the nation.

“Whitehall’s participation went above and beyond,” Rocque said. Twenty-seven of those names were etched alongside a star, identifying those who never came home.

“Today we take time to honor the 27 men with stars next to their names, especially Ray Beckwith, John’s friend and Henry’s brother in law.”

Beckwith was aboard the USS Franklin on March 19, 1945, when it was hit by enemy fire and destroyed. He was among 724 people who died that day.

 

Second World War

More than 16 million Americans served during World War II, by far the most of any U.S. military conflict.

“400,000 people never came home from World War II,” Rocque said.

And the number of those who made it home and are still living is decreasing rapidly.

According to U.S. Veterans Administration, a World War II veteran dies every 90 seconds.

There are only 1.5 million World War II veterans still alive today, down from nearly 6 million in 2000.
There were four World War II veterans in attendance during Monday’s ceremony and at least one veteran from every military conflict since was in the crowd.

Each has their name etched on the wall in Riverside Park.

Telisky told the crowd the wall provides perspective and reminds people of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

“It’s not the beginning of summer and barbecues. It’s a celebration of the people on that wall, especially those with a star next to them. We celebrate and honor their sacrifice,” he said.

Armstrong encouraged people to read the names on the wall to remind themselves of the sacrifices that were made to keep us safe.

“Memorial Day is not only a celebration, but a somber reminder of the cost of freedom, our freedom.”

Comments

comments


Read more in this week's Times in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Obituary: Rose M. Gordon

Gordon, Rose2_20200712_0001 (2)

WHITEHALL –Rose M. Gordon (“Rosie”) went into the arms of the lord unexpectedly on July 11, 2020 at the Wesley […]

Obituary: Donald Herman Herbst

Herbst, Donald

Whitehall-Donald Herman Herbst, 81, of Champlain Ave., passed away peacefully at the Glens Falls Hospital, after a valiant fight with […]

North Country FreePress – July 10, 2020

Man shot after hitting cop with car

police

Two Rutland, Vermont men were sent to the hospital Wednesday after a shootout and chase with police. Just after midnight […]

Lakes Region FreePress – July 10, 2020

Obituary: Jason C. Thomas

Jason Thomas obit photo

Jason C. Thomas, 44, of Willow Spring, NC (formerly of Granville, NY) passed away peacefully with family by his side […]

Backpack program marks 14 years

Skyler (left) and Melody Schinski, Ann Schinski’s grandchildren, show off some of the gear that will be given away at Saturday’s backpack drive.

By Matthew Saari School is scheduled to start in a little more than a month, so it’s time to think […]

Man shot by Rutland police

police

Two men were sent to the hospital Wednesday following a shootout and chase with police in Rutland, Vermont. Just after […]

Local businesses get big money from feds

ppp

By Matthew Saari Many of the region’s leading employers were the leading recipients of federal coronavirus stimulus money. The U.S […]

Village, town order cuts in water usage

sprinkler

By Matthew Saari The village and town of Granville both are restricting water usage in their respective municipalities due to […]

Whitehall Times 7.9.20

Granville Sentinel 7.9.20