Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Anson still honored fallen veterans on Memorial Day. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Most Memorial Day celebrations across central Maine were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in Starks, Anson and Madison, about a dozen veterans, their family members and friends paid tribute to those who died serving the country.

Tardiff-Belanger American Legion Post 39 and Auxiliary of Madison held ceremonies at six sites across the area Monday morning. The solemn gatherings included speeches, prayers and the laying wreaths at veterans’ memorials.

The morning started in Starks and then the caravan of veterans and others traveled to Anson, where they gathered around the monument near the Town Office to hear American Legion Post 39 Commander Robert Demchak speak.

“Comrades, this day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” Demchak said. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our country and of those who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and are gone to their eternal rest. May the ceremonies of today deepen our reverence for our departed friends and comrades.”

Demchak served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, the last years as a major who directed operations for the 15th Air Force Combat Operations Center. He asked those present to renew their pledges of loyalty to the country and flag.

“Let us resolve by word and deed to emphasize the privilege and duty of patriotism,” he said.

The air was cool. An American flag flying at half staff floated in a breeze coming off the Kennebec River as the morning sun emerged from clouds, only to recede again.

The local legion, which celebrates its 101st birthday this year, was represented by several members Monday, including a firing detail that delivered three rounds. Legion Chaplain John Ziacoma said prayers, Sergeant-at-arms Phil Daigle held the American flag and finance officer and bugler John Bryant played taps. Legion Auxiliary President Robin Turek placed a wreath at the veterans’ memorial.

State Sen. Bradlee Farrin, R-Norridgewock, speaks Monday during a Memorial Day ceremony in Anson.

State Sen. Bradlee Farrin, R-Norridgewock, delivered a brief speech honoring those who have died in service.

“While this Memorial Day may look and feel different due to the uncertain times we face, our lives disrupted and things that used to be routine are no longer an option, we need to continue our traditions,” Farrin said.

“One of the most-sacred traditions we have as Americans is to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms, allowing us to prosper as individuals, as a society and as a nation.”

Farrin, a U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard veteran who is the Americanism officer for the American Legion, asked those present to “take a few moments to reflect on the over one million men and women who never stepped off the battlefield.”

Farrin said service members are still fighting and giving their lives so others may enjoy freedom.

“I would also ask that you keep the family members of our fallen in your hearts and prayers,” he said, “because during this time of isolation, it is important to honor the legacy of those lost by caring for those left behind.”

At a fence overlooking the Kennebec River, auxiliary member Tiara Nile, carrying a white basket and escorted by Ziacoma, the chaplain, dropped flowers into the water.

Again, the firing detail commanded by Legion Second Vice Commander Will Price, issued three volleys. The detail included Gene Dube, Legion Adjutant Bob Washburn, historian Dale Bickford, Ray Cloutier and First Vice Commander Aaron Rollins.

The group traveled to the Madison Public Library on Old Point Avenue and then to Forest Hills Cemetery on Upper Park Street, where participants repeated the ceremony.

Sitting in a red Jeep, Karen Nile and Ronald Hall watched the ceremonies. Nile said many of her family members served in the military, including her children, brothers and grandfather.

“I have a lot of respect for the military,” said Nile, who also said she is Tiara Nile’s cousin.

Hall had two words for what he witnessed Monday.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. 

The caravan drove to East Madison, where participants ended the morning by holding another ceremony at the Cpl. Joseph Quirion Jr. Monument on East Madison Road.

Quirion was killed in action in Vietnam on April 3, 1968. His sister, Cindy Quirion Daigle, laid flowers at his monument during Monday’s event.

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