AUGUSTA — Ellen Wood and Chris Watson staked out a spot on Capitol Street Monday close to where Augusta’s annual Fourth of July parade got its start.

“I’m a kid at heart,” Wood, 58, said. “I love a parade. I like the people, I like the floats, I like the noise.” She’s been coming to the parade in Augusta for about five decades.

“If they had a parade once a week, I would go to all of them,” Wood’s son, Chris Watson, 23, said.

The two popped across the river from Chelsea to join hundreds of area residents who packed the parade route from the State Capitol to Augusta Mill Park to watch the annual spectacle.

The parade drew dance schools, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, candidates for political office, the Hallowell Community Band, Miss Maine 2016 Marybeth Noonan, church floats with live Christian rock that sometimes competed with the bagpipes of the Anah Highlanders Pipes and Drums and the revving two-stroke engines of the various mini vehicles driven in formation by the Kora Shriners. A contingent of public safety vehicles from Windsor, Chelsea, Hallowell, Pittston, Farmingdale and Augusta brought up the rear.

Leading the 45-minute line of celebration, waving flags and tossed candy and tucked into the convertible Volkswagen Beetle marked Grand Marshals were two men who had met for the first time Monday. Don Lucero, 95, and Henry Breton, 91, both of Augusta, are both World War II veterans and both were named grand marshals of this year’s parade

For Breton, it was a great honor to be named grand marshal.

“Usually,” Breton said, “it doesn’t happen to a small guy like me. Usually, it goes to someone bigger.”

Breton, born in 1921 in Augusta, grew up on Sand Hill, then better known as Cushnoc Heights. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and trained as a cook. He’d lost his trigger finger working in a cotton mill when he was 16.

In 1944, as part of the 3160th Signal Battalion, he was trucked to the Battle of the Bulge to establish communications from the front to the rear echelon, but his unit was overrun by a German tank division. Instead, the Signal Corps men joined the infantry to fight the Germans. On Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945, he was in Liege, Belgium, and met Elizabeth Demoulin, the woman he would marry and bring home to Augusta.

Breton has been back to France and to Belgium. He attended ceremonies for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014 at the invitation of the presidents of both the United States and France, and he returned this year to lay wreaths at the memorial. “This was my third time to go,” he said, adding that he plans to return for the 75th anniversary. “There are not many of us living any more.”

He said he’s no spring chicken, but he still manages to stay busy, most lately raising funds to pay for Honor Flights, which bring military veterans to Washington, D.C., to see memorials to the wars they fought in.

Lucero is a transplant to Maine. Born in 1921 in New Mexico, he was in the New Mexico National Guard when he was activated as part of the National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery Regiment. He and 1,800 others left New Mexico for the Philippines in September 1941. Japanese bombers arrived in the islands three months later.

He was eventually captured by the Japanese. He survived the Bataan Death March. He escaped three times from the prison camp where he was held. He met up with guerrillas in the jungle and continued to fight the Japanese. He met his first wife there.

In 2013 at a ceremony at the State House Hall of Flags, Lucero was presented with the Bronze Star for bravery, the Purple Heart because he was injured and the New Mexico Bataan Service Medal, which was created by the state of New Mexico for every member of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment. Efforts were underway then to replace Lucero’s medals, which had been lost as he moved around. He received the Bronze Star on his 92nd birthday.

Lucero, who lost hearing in one ear during the war, celebrated the holiday with members of his family.

Across the region, communities celebrated the holiday in their own ways.

Fireworks shows lit up the skies on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights.

In Hallowell, Mayor Mark Walker was scheduled to read the city’s copy of the 1776 Declaration of Independence Monday afternoon.

In Oakland, the parade was set afloat on McGrath Pond Monday afternoon.

In Augusta, Wood and Watson packed up their chairs and were heading home for a quick cook-out as the end of the parade rounded the corner to State Street. They planned to return to Augusta for the fireworks that would cap off the Independence Day celebration.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.