MADISON — Cross-river neighbors from Madison and Anson celebrated the history of their towns this weekend with family events, barbecue suppers, athletic competition and a parade paying special honor to aging veterans of World War II.

Residents and guests applauded as the veterans in their late 80s and 90s rode by as grand marshals of the annual Madison-Anson Days parade.

“It makes me feel pretty good,” said Ray Soucy, of Madison, who flew B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft during the war.

“It’s really special for the town to do it for us veterans of the Second World War,” Soucy said. “I think there’s only a half dozen of us left here in Madison.”

The parade drew a crowd that shared sidewalk space with a variety of vendors and crafts-makers selling wares including vintage clothing, antiques and made-to-order coffins.

“Everybody’s got mixed feelings about it,” said Mike Hooper, a carpenter of 25 years’ construction experience who passes time in retirement making assorted household items for this life and custom-designed coffins for the next.

“A lady came yesterday, and I measured her up,” Hooper said. “She was short, but we make them up to order. Some people want two.”

The four-day celebration was established during the years of the U.S. bicentennial celebration and was started to commemorate the 1724 massacre of French Jesuit Sebastian Rasle and 80 Abenaki Indian followers at the Indian village at Old Point on the Kennebec River.

In the past decade, it has become known as Madison-Anson days.

Soldiers of American wars of the past three-quarters of a century held positions of honor in the parade, as part of the “Honoring Our Armed Forces” theme of the four-day celebration. The veterans rode past applauding observers on conveyances ranging from a 1940s-era John Deere tractor to a military Humvee.

For the aging veterans of the brutal war against the Axis powers of the 1940s, it was a chance to receive — for some, perhaps, for the final time — an expression of appreciation for what they endured when called to fight.

Nunzio Biondello has vivid memories of service as a 20-year-old radio operator during history’s biggest amphibious invasion, the D-Day landing of 70 years ago.

“I landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy in the second wave, bringing in the infantry division. I’ll never forget that day, coming under heavy artillery fire by the Germans,” Biondello said. “It was hell that day.”

Biondello received a special honor Saturday, when he was presented with replacements for his World War II service medals, which had been lost over the years. Gen. John Dericco of the Maine Air National Guard officiated at the presentation.

Members of the dwindling population of World War II veterans said the recognition by the fellow citizens was meaningful.

“I think it shows they appreciate what’s been done,” said Ivan Hoyt, 89, of North Anson, who had been an Army sergeant.

Madison-Anson Days concludes with a full schedule today, including a fishing day, Family Farm Day at the Madison Farmers’ Market, a golf tournament and a triathalon for 8-to-15-year-olds.

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