WEST PITTSTON — Among the hundreds lining Wyoming Avenue in West Pittston and Exeter for a Memorial Day parade, Linda Ferretti Savorski stood out.
It wasn’t the red, white and blue that she was wearing, or the American flag she waved at passing military personnel past and present. What made Savorski stand out was a picture.
Savorski held a large framed portrait of her husband, Jerome Savorski, in his U.S. Navy dress uniform back in the ’60s. Her husband of 37 years died in 2011 because of illnesses related to his service, Savorski said as she waved to a passing car full of veterans. Some of the men solemnly saluted Savorski and the photo of her husband.
“It’s so important to me that he served his country, and he died because of that service,” Savorski said. “It’s important for us to remember.”
Participants and spectators alike echoed that sentiment over and over as military units rolled by and the bands played. Chip Bell, president of the Pocono Mountain Street Rodders, said his group has been taking part in the parade for at least 12 years. Seven vehicles from the group took part in the parade, including the black cherry-colored 1941 Chevy that Bell drove.
“We do this to support the veterans, to support the troops and to remember,” Bell said.
More than 30 friends and family members of Linda Hanson gathered on her large West Pittston front porch and lawn along Wyoming Avenue for the parade that has become the traditional start to their day-long Memorial Day celebration.
“My father and my uncles were all veterans, and they are all gone now, all but one. It’s important to remember them,” said Hanson, who added that hearing the bagpipe band always chokes her up.
Even for some of the youngest parade-goers, the parade has already become a tradition. Wyoming resident Brian Endrusick and a large contingent of his family spanning three generations watched from a tree lawn in Exeter. The group included Endrusick’s two young children, Claire, 3, and Elliot, 18 months.
“It’s important to us to come out and bring the kids. We come out every year to see and pay respects to all the veterans that are in our town and local communities,” said Endrusick, who added he is very proud to know his grandfathers served in the Navy and Army during World War II. “It’s important as a tribute to them and it’s a great event. People should absolutely come out to this and support our troops.”
Supporting those who serve, remembering those who lost their lives in service, and helping the children to understand are exactly the reason the West Pittston/Exeter parade is held each year, according to Ron Gitkos, commander of the West Pittston American Legion 1st LT. Jeffrey DePrimo Post 542.
“We started this in 1996 to teach the kids what Memorial Day is all about,” said Gitkos. He said he is grateful and appreciative of the help that made the parade possible, including the Scrobola family, owners of Valley Aviation at the Forty Fort Airport who provided a dramatic Navy plane fly-over during the parade’s closing ceremony.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Air Force Maj. John Baum, a former member of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, who is currently stationed at the Pentagon. Recounting the history of Memorial Day, which dates back to the end of the Civil War, Baum said this day is for those who serve now, for the families of the fallen and for the children who will receive the legacy of those who go before them.
“If we don’t know where we are from,” Baum told the crowd gathered at the end of the parade route, “we’ll never know where we are going.”