John Gaidis, a lifelong Maspeth resident and veteran, said he rarely misses a Memorial Day parade in his hometown.
The 85-year-old veteran, who served in Korea and later in Vietnam as part of a submarine unit, situated himself in his own front row seat along Grand Avenue with his dog Tio.
“All the men and women who came before me and gave their lives so I could live so beautifully, means a lot to me,” Gaidis said, waving an American flag.
He jokes that he’s never left the town, and points across the street to the Mount Olivet Cemetery.
“I’ve been here for only 85 years, and when I die I’ll live in there,” he says, with nearby parade floats passing through the heart of Maspeth.
This year’s Memorial Day ceremonies in Maspeth kicked off with an introduction of this year’s Grand Marshals, Maspeth activist Peter Wolyneic, and Korean War veteran Costantino Carbone Jr.
The national anthem was performed by Maria Flaim of the St. Stanislaus & Transfiguration Music Ministry, with an invocation following by Sgt. Jack Hallahan, 69th Regt. Chaplain.
Liz and Bill Huisman performed “Light of a Gold Star” as an introduction to the ceremony’s invited guests.
Essay award winners from St. Stanislaus and P.S. 58 were recognized for their writing that covered topics such as “What is a Gold Star Family?;” “What is the history of the Gold Star Family?;” “What is being done to support the Gold Star Families?;” and “What would you do to recognize Gold Star Families?”
Essay award winners included fifth graders Victor Luna (First place, P.S. 58), Daniel Arabov (Second place, P.S. 58), Kyle Caspe (Third place, P.S. 58); sixth graders Julia Drwecka (First place, St. Stans), Eva Gonzalez (Second place, P.S. 58), Kelly Galarza (Third place, St. Stans); and seventh grader Niall Guerrero (First place, St. Stans).
The Francis Lewis High School R.O.T.C. put on a precision demonstration before the presentation of Gold Star Families, or the immediate family of a fallen service member who died while serving.
This year’s honored Gold Star Families included the immediate relatives of Kenneth Johnson (K.I.A. Vietnam), John Desio (K.I.A. WWII), and Robert Rodriguez (K.I.A. Iraqi Freedom).
This year’s Walk of Honor inductees included Mary Ann Walter, Joseph Magnus, Salvatore Vitale, James Deslo, Stanley Wdowiak, Jerry Drake, John Browne, John Kempisty, Donald Steinmaker, Deacon Arthur Griffin, Anthony Mickalauskas and Anne Holden. People enshrined in the Walk of Honor are people who have made the community a better place to live in.
Elected officials including State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Barnwell joined the afternoon parade and following memorial service.
Brent O’Leary, a candidate for the 37th State Assembly district, said the day celebrates the principles of our country, along with its achievements and the community’s diversity.
“We strive to make sure that this is always the country of the American dream,” O’Leary said. “Maspeth is a working class community from all different backgrounds. I think they’ve always stood together and supported the community.”