It is Monday, the 31st day of March 2010 at 11:00 am. It is a typical Florida May late morning, warm and muggy. A “standing room only” crowd of 500 people plus has gathered for the 56th Annual Memorial Day celebration at the Fred Hunter’s Hollywood Memorial Gardens and no one seems to mind the heat. This is an important time of remembrance for this community.
Mark Van Rees, The Master of Ceremonies and Director of Funeral Home Operations for Fred Hunter Memorial Services, welcomes those in attendance. He announces the Officer of the Day, 1st Sgt. Ismael Bonilla of the McArthur High School JROTC. 1st Sgt. Bonilla directs the Flag Raising Ceremony conducted by the JROTC. It is great to see all the young men and women of the JROTC. As one attendee, Lou Lobascio, stated in a letter to me, “Those young JROTC people from McArthur High School were fantastic; dressed so neatly, always polite and so helpful and respectful”. When we see these young people participate in the Memorial Day celebration, we know our future is in good hands.
The Advancing of the Colors is a prideful event; the local Veterans organizations participating, displaying their flags and banners. As the participants are seated, Rev. Clyde Bedenbaugh of Fred Hunter Memorial Services offers the invocation, remembering those Veterans that have made the ultimate sacrifice in assuring our freedom. The Pledge of Allegiance is lead by a JROTC Cadet, followed by a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Olga Russ as she is accompanied by pianist Robert Spry. Mayor Peter Bober of the City of Hollywood addresses the community gathering. Mark Van Rees introduces multiple community representatives and leaders, none part of the formal program, but that is just fine with the crowd. After all, this is a community celebration, a time for poignant and patriotic poems, speeches and recognition by and for the community.
When speaking of the community, who else but our own William “Bill” Foster, “Mr. Hollywood”, represented the community any better? We lost Bill this month at the age of 91. I am honored to share with the crowd our remembrance of Bill’s many contributions to the Memorial Day Program. Alice, his wife of 63 years, sits in the front, listening intently to my words of her beloved Bill, the Consummate Master of Ceremonies for the Memorial Day Program since 1996. She is beaming with pride. Ryan Quinn and Kevin Quinn, Jr., representing the Quinn Family that own Fred Hunter Memorial Services, Mark Van Rees and I present Alice with a commemorative plaque that includes a replica of Bill’s Fred Hunter’s service pin that he always wore with pride as the Director of Community Relations for Fred Hunter’s. Bill, you did your job well, you will be missed by all.
The Memorial Day Message is delivered by Joseph Napoli, Colonel, United States Army Chief, Commander’s Action Group from the United Sates Southern Command. He reminds all of us that while we enjoy our families, picnics, beach outing and barbeque on this special holiday that these activities are possible due to the ultimate and selfless sacrifice made by many of our Service Men and Women. This is why we remember, this is why we pause to say thank you on Memorial Day.
Now approaches the time to truly remember, a solemn time in the program. As the Boy Scout Troop #412 and the Sons of the Union Veterans, Civil War, Camp 7 walk together for the Placing of the Wreaths, Olga Russ soulfully sings, “Amazing Grace”. A hush falls on the crowd and all are asked to remember, remember with a Moment of Silence. The silence is shattered with the Rifle Salute by the Hollywood Police Department Honor Guard then followed by the recognizable sound of a lone bugle sounding Taps.
This is an emotional time for all. Rev. Clyde Bedenbaugh again approaches the podium, pronouncing the benediction. Olga again stirs our emotions with “God Bless America”. As all stand in the wake of the powerful voice of Olga, the Colors are Retired. Another successful Memorial Day Celebration at Fred Hunter’s Hollywood Memorial Gardens.