LIMA — On a record-high temperature day for May, the Memorial Day parade returned to Lima. The relaunched parade was sponsored by the Allen County Veterans Council and planned by Friends of Lima member Aaron Poling. Poling owns Poling Family Renovations in Lima.
“The goal is to bring some civic pride to the city and memorialize our veterans,” Poling shared over the phone. “I live downtown and am passionate about Lima and want it to succeed.”
Poling’s father-in-law, Mark Moore, had coordinated the Memorial Day parade for 30 years until he passed away about five years ago. Moore’s daughter, Adena, Poling’s wife, worked with him to bring back a proud city and family tradition.
There were more than 100 participants in the parade, and Poling worked hands-on in arranging the parade route, organizing the participants, and smoking over 350 pounds of pork for the Memorial Day cookout outside of the 311 building. The parade itself was almost two hours long on a nearly two-mile route.
The parade included veterans groups from the region, a flyover by two fighter jets, tanks and many others. Even Santa Claus made an appearance in the parade.
“We worked with Tom Ahl to arrange to have 700 wrapped gifts available to pass out to kids along the parade route when Santa Claus walked by,” Poling said.
The spirit of the parade lived in the choice of the parade marshals. Five of the oldest veterans in the county, all in their 90s and World War II veterans, acted as marshals for the relaunch of the Lima Memorial Day Parade. Poling felt it was important to honor these veterans and share their stories for posterity.
After the parade, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #1275 held a wreath-laying ceremony. Mayor Sharetta Smith and Commissioner Beth Seibert read proclamations on behalf of Lima and Allen County honoring the sacrifices of veterans. Representatives from veterans groups, families and Gold Star mothers placed wreaths honoring fallen soldiers.
Bill King was the announcer at the VFW event, with Pastor Tim White giving the invocation and benediction. First Sergeant Paul E. Joseph served as the speaker of the event, explaining the history of Memorial Day from ancient Romans honoring their fallen comrades to the evolution of Decoration Day after the Civil War. Joseph stressed the importance of remembering the original intent of the holiday, that people should be honoring fallen soldiers and not be caught up in consumerism.
The somber ceremony of representatives being called up to present their wreaths before a flag-draped casket ended with three Gold Star Mothers laying wreaths. Afterward, one of the five parade marshals, a 97-year-old veteran named Howard Lackey, came up to share his experience in World War II and answer questions from the crowd.
Lackey was drafted in 1944 and sent to Marseilles in the south of France. From there his unit fought through France and into Germany. He shared a small sepia-tone photograph of himself standing in front of the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s ruined residence in Bavaria. Lackey returned home to the United States in 1946, having a variety of jobs from running several filling stations to working in the Ford plant. He was married in 1947 and he and his wife were together for 74 years.