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Virtual Memorial Day a moving tribute; Pandemic cancels live parade and ceremonies

At 10 a.m., Monday, Memorial Day, Shelter Island’s church bells rang and the fire whistles sounded, signals to remember those from the Island and across the country who have died in America’s wars.

The Memorial Day ceremonies are cherished by Islanders, with a parade, speeches in front of the American Legion Post, prayers and calls to never forget. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center of town was not the setting for Memorial Day 2020. But rather, it was witnessed on small screens — on channel 22 running continuously on Monday and the town’s Facebook page — substituting as places to honor the day.

In a professionally shot, edited and produced video done last week, the town provided a moving tribute to those lost in battle. Shot by Chris Tehan and Mary Ellen McGayhey — and superbly edited by Ms. McGayhey — with many photographs by Eleanor P. Labrozzi, the video included prayers and a Memorial Day address by Councilman Jim Colligan, a veteran of Vietnam.

Some of the most moving scenes were of women from the American Legion Auxiliary placing wreaths on the memorial stone monuments listing the Island’s war dead outside the Legion Post and across the street on the school’s grounds.

Chrys Kestler (Credit: Courtesy of Eleanor P. Labrozzi)

Father Charles McCarron, pastor of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, was videoed giving the invocation outside the American Legion Post, asking the community for prayers for those “caught up in war,” who fought for “liberty and peace.” He asked that those who “still bear the scars” mentally and physically not to be forgotten, and to pray for and remember those “who waited in vain for someone to return, but who never came home.”

Father McCarron also asked God’s blessing to “save us from the savagery and atrocities of war.”

Father Charles McCarron,center, giving the Memorial Day invocation. (Credit: Courtesy of Eleanor P. Labrozzi0

Mr. Colligan noted that this Memorial Day “is like no other, not only for us here on Shelter Island, but across our country,” and he saluted the medical community and first responders “who continue to put their lives in danger to help protect all of us.”

Mr. Colligan made special mention of Howard Jackson, a veteran of World War II and Korea, who gave the Memorial Day address last year, and who has since passed away.

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet, notwithstanding, go out to meet it,” Mr. Colligan said. “They didn’t go off to war because they loved fighting … Most of them were just ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in very difficult times. This is why we are here today, to remember and to celebrate the lives of our fallen heroes. God bless all Americans and especially our Shelter Island men and women who are currently serving in our armed forces.”

Father Peter DeSanctis, pastor of Our Lady of the Isle, then read the names of the 19 service members from Shelter Island who died in war zones. Reverend Robert Griffin, pastor of The Presbyterian Church, gave the benediction, comparing those who fell in battle to Jesus Christ, who made “the ultimate sacrifice … laying down their lives for us. A life given in love is never a life given in vain.”

A video of Taps played by Jason Green at a former Memorial Day echoed on the soundtrack.

The video then ran scenes from former parades, led by the high school band playing patriotic marches, and groups of Islanders of all ages in the Center, ringing Wilson Circle to remember and honor the Island’s war dead, as well as their countrymen and women across the nation killed in action in America’s wars.

There were scenes of the traditional march of veterans, led by a uniformed color guard, as well as members of the Fire Department and the Ladies Auxiliary, scouts, the Emergency Medical Services and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Antique cars — including several ancient Fire Department vehicles — were seen rolling down Route 114 carrying veterans, receiving appreciative rounds of applause as they passed.

Islanders were seen lining curbs and sidewalks, at peace and clustered together, in a testament to a less uncertain time in the life of Shelter Island and the country.


Islanders killed in action


Robert J. Congdon

Zebulon B. Glover

Randolph C. Griffing

J. Madison Hempstead

Charles H. Haven

Joseph Howard

Hudson Sylvester Nicoll


Henry Martin Mitchell


Charles W. Avona

Arthur Dickerson

Robert Winberg

Herbert Howard Power

Carl (Ed) Conrad

John W. Sanwald Jr.

Raymond C. Dickerson


Julius J. Scholtz


James Wilson, Jr.


Joseph J. Theinert