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Holiday Observances From Solemn To Festive

May 31, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Solemn Memorial Day ceremonies honored the nation’s war dead Monday, drawing thousands to Washington’s monuments and small-town cemeteries, while many others partied in the sunshine to kick off the summer season.

″It’s about the saddest day - that and Christmas,″ said Margaret Meyers, 90, of Columbus, Ohio, who lost two sons at Normandy in 1944.

Memorial Day is ″a day of reflection, of being extremely disappointed in the heart and mind ... and of thinking ... how much I wish I could close the book on my father,″ said Robin Powers, 28, of Orion Township, Mich., outside Detroit. Her father, Maj. Gary G. Wright, was declared missing in action after his Air Force reconnaisance jet disappeared over Southeast Asia on Jan. 17, 1967.

At Boston, a cannon on the bow of the 190-year-old USS Constitution was fired 21 times beginning at noon.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery just outside Washington, drawing about 4,000 people.

U.S. Park Police estimated that 15,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington for a ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial.

The Kennedy family spent a quiet Memorial Day at their Hyannisport, Mass., compound following a small memorial service Sunday for the 71st birthday of President John F. Kennedy, said family spokesman Marc O’Connor.

Illinois’ new Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, dedicated less than a month ago, attracted more weekend visitors than Lincoln’s Tomb, officials said. ″They’re there from early morning until the cemetery closes at 7 p.m.,″ said Nan Wynn, site manager for the memorial, located in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery less than a quarter-mile from Lincoln’s Tomb.

Homeless veterans were among the 200 to 300 people marching in the traditional New York County American Legion parade in Manhattan. Larger parades were held elsewhere in the metropolitan area.

″I marched in the parade because I felt I wasn’t recognized by the American people,″ said Wayne Fraley, 36, who provided air support for soldiers in Vietnam and now lives in a homeless men’s shelter in Queens. ″In time of war we were called elite. How did we ever land in the streets?″

A five-month observation of the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg opened with a parade and a speech by retired Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who said the nation-building process that soldiers died for during the Civil War continues today.

″A nation is never fully formed,″ Westmoreland told an audience of about 1,000 in a speech at Gettysburg National Cemetery in southeastern Pennsylvania. About 1,500 children spread flowers on the graves of the 3,722 Civil War soldiers buried here.

Solemnity was followed by Dixieland jazz at Prospect Hill Cemetery at Omaha, Neb., when a band and about half of a crowd of 200 followed up a Memorial Day observance with a graveside salute to Anna Wilson, a bordello madam who left $1 million to charity when she died in 1911.

″Saluting a prostitute is not the purpose of this thing,″ said program organizer Larry McNichols. ″For one thing, she gave a lot of money to this cemetery.″

In Los Angeles, 20 protesters chose Memorial Day as the occasion to demand a boycott of the movie ″Rambo III,″ denouncing the film as overly violent and declaring it inflames passions against the Soviet Union.

In Indianapolis, people already were lining up Monday for tickets for the 1989 running of the famous 500-mile race. The line of those waiting to turn in their orders at the ticket windows stretched 100-deep at times.

Though most workers got the day off, Monday was not a paid holiday for state employees in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Alabama state employees worked as a trade-off for the holiday they received April 25 for Confederate Memorial Day.

Much of the nation had fair weather for Monday’s ceremonies, parades, picnics and beach parties, but parts of the West had weather definitely not in keeping with the holiday’s reputation as the start of the summer season.

Large sections of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming were closed because of snow, which accumulated 4 to 6 inches deep in park mountain passes by early afternoon, park officials said.

Snow fell at higher elevations of Utah, with 5 inches at the Alta ski resort, and light snow lingered in northeastern Nevada, the National Weather Service said. On Sunday, a surprise storm dumped up to 6 inches of snow in the mountains of northern California, surprising thousands of travelers and campers.

Stiff wind and pounding seas trapped scores of boaters in coves on the Channel Islands off Southern California, and 19 people were rescued after their boats were smashed in two spots on Santa Catalina Island.

But where the weather was good, people shook off the memories of winter and headed for the outdoors.

″We’ve been very busy,″ said Elizabeth Rothenberger of the Exeter Public Golf Course in Reading, Pa.

Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s across Michigan and tourists packed motels and a state park along Grand Traverse Bay on the state’s Lake Michigan side.

″Last year we never did fill up,″ Traverse City State Park Manager Ivan Rockwell said. ″This year, we were full on Saturday night.″

AAA Michigan said staffers at Van Riper State Park near Champion, just west of Marquette, reported the biggest crowd in 20 years.

Beaches along most of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod were less crowded Monday after clouds moved in. ″It was crazy until today,″ said Tanya Hirst at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Along the Missouri shore of the Mississippi River, St. Louis Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr., piloting the Becky Thatcher Riverboat, edged St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary aboard the Tom Sawyer in their annual Memorial Day Riverboat Race. The boats are driven by modern propellers but carry paddle-wheels to look like the old-time river steamers.

″We were long overdue,″ Schoemehl said. ″We had a new boat and a new beginning.″ McNary leads in the seven-year series with a 4-2-1 record.

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