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Memorial Day Service

I hope everyone had a relaxing and special Memorial Day Weekend.

The Friends of Maple Grove in partnership with the choir of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset under the direction of Andrew Koslosky, the Richmond Hill Boy Scouts with Scout Master Patrick Kearns and many volunteers, gathered to honor the veterans at Maple Grove Cemetery. Over the years, Helen Day, Joanne Raskin and I, have been creating a database of veterans found at Maple Grove, going as far back as the War of 1812 with John and Stephen Lott. Two Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, George Corliss and Edward Wright and many veterans through history who fought in the two great World Wars, the Spanish American, the Box Rebellion, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and so forth. Sadly many did not return to their families but came to rest at Maple Grove. We keep finding more and more and uncover their exceptional stories. This weekend was no exception, we were stunned to find another member of the military, whose story had been forgotten for decades. Virginia Smith, from Woodhaven entered the WAF, Women in the Air Force, which was formed in 1948. In 1949, Virginia, and a fellow recruit were walking across their base when a bolt of lightning fatally struck Virginia and injured her friend. Virginia was brought to rest in her family plot at Maple Grove, she was 19 years old. Uncovering Virginia’s poignant story during the Memorial Day weekend made things more extraordinary, emotional and memorable.

Saturday morning, all the groups met at the Center and were supplied with over 600 American flags provide by Bonnie Dixon, the President and Executive Manager of Maple Grove. Starting at 11 AM the students, scouts and volunteers started to fan all sections of Maple Grove, finding graves of veterans. Neighborhood volunteers, including Crystal Counts of the Briarwood/Kew Gardens Lions Club came and thanked us for honoring the veterans and were happy to help. Upon finding a veteran, the students paused, knelt in prayer and gave a salute before placing a flag. This continued for a few hours. At 2 o’clock the groups gathered at the lake for a memorial service. It began with the Pledge of Allegiance lead by Andrew Koslosky. A keyboard which was set up by Giovanni and Marco Vittozzi was played upon by Pat White and the Saint Mary’s High School choir sang a number of wonderful, heartwarming songs. Biographies of a few of veterans were read aloud and a prayer was recited. The end of the ceremony was marked with a trumpet player performing TAPS. Please see the pictures attached.

Over the years, The Friends of Maple Grove have created many wonderful and innovative events, workshops, walking tours, concerts and so on but this ceremony goes straight to the heart of our mission to those who we care for at Maple Grove.

Carl Ballenas

President of the Friends of Maple Grove

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