November 27, 2021

Paying tribute amid pandemic

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Glenwood Cemetery in Homer will be the site of a non-public Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning. Other events will be in Cortland and Groton, but commemorations across the greater Cortland area were curtailed or canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Memorial Day events will be different this year as people and municipalities figure out how to honor military personnel who have died without spreading COVID-19.

Some commemorations — in Homer, Cortland and Groton — will continue, but with changes.

“Due to the global pandemic, the Homer Memorial Day Parade and public ceremony at Glenwood Cemetery has been canceled, as it is not an allowed activity under Phase 1 reopening,” said Homer Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe in a news release Thursday. “It was a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately, we had to consider the public safety.”

However, a smaller ceremony, not open to the public will take place at 10 a.m. at Glenwood Cemetery. The cemetery will be blocked off to the public and only those visiting family in the cemetery will be permitted in, but not allowed near the ceremony.

“We realize this is less than ideal, but we hope you will all understand, and stay at home and watch or listen to the ceremony as it happens,” McCabe said.

The events

9 a.m., Groton — American Legion Post 800 ceremony at Graves Memorial, followed by procession to cemeteries, ending at Groton nursing home.

10 a.m. Homer — Nonpublic ceremony from Glenwood Cemetery in Homer.

11 a.m., Cortland — Brief ceremony at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, Main Street, Cortland.

Jim Toolan, the cemetery supervisor and Vietnam Veteran and Fran Riter, a Vietnam veteran, will mark the 45th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti will lay the wreath. The guest speaker will be Julie Fairchild-Niederhofer, a nurse at Cayuga Medical Center who recently returned after aiding coronavirus patients in New York City. The ceremony also includes words from Legion Commander Bill Powers, songs, the raising of the flag and Taps.

Following that will be a 10-minute ceremony around 11 a.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cortland, where they too will mark the 45th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, said veteran Norm Stitzel, chaplain of Veterans Search and Rescue, and active in a number of veterans organizations. Try to stay socially distanced.

There will be no ceremony this year at Courthouse Park in Cortland, but Stitzel said “people are welcome to go there and pay their respects.”

Groton American Legion Post 800 will start its ceremony at 9 a.m. at Graves Memorial with a procession to cemeteries in the area, including Bird, North Lansing and West Groton Rural, among others. The group will also stop at the Groton nursing home at noon and finish at the Legion post at 12:15 p.m.

Anyone planning to attend any of the stops are urged to practice social distancing and wear a face mask, according to a post on the ceremony on social media. The legion will remain closed and no refreshments or food will follow the event.

Cincinnatus and Preble have canceled their ceremonies.

If people are looking for other ways to honor veterans on Memorial Day, Stitzel said people can take their kids to the cemetery and look for the markers on veterans graves.

“It’s a good way to pay respect to those who came before us and teach the kids,” he said.