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Memorial Day Traditions In A COVID World Still Celebrated Family, Faith, Patriotism



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There may have been fewer hugs and smaller gatherings, but Memorial Day weekend still marked the unofficial beginning of summer in Newtown with appropriately distanced and patriotic activities.

From the return of congregants to Sunday Mass at St Rose of Lima Parish on May 24, in the form of a Parking Lot Mass, and the unfurling of the giant summer flag, to lining Main Street and populating the town’s War Memorial with smaller versions of the stars and stripes, Newtown’s American spirit shone.

Boaters, many towing squealing youths on floats, shared the waters of the Housatonic with anglers and personal water craft, while those same waters helped reflect a moving Monday morning musical tribute to our brave veterans.

Music could be heard in neighborhood yards around town as families and friends — more than a few wearing or at least toting face protection and sharing squirts of sanitizing gel — tentatively greeted one another over barbecued hotdogs and burgers, but fewer shared community dishes.

Those who were not as fortunate also got a boost thanks to a Sunday drive-up non-contact food drive for FAITH Food Pantry, which was hosted by the local nonprofit Ben’s Lighthouse.

And for the most part, the weather cooperated, as a few sprinkles did little to dampen the enthusiasm of local residents who were eager to get outside and revel awhile in the seasonable 70 degree warmth that enveloped the community.

This spring also marked the occasional sprucing up of one of Newtown’s most visible and cherished icons, the towering Main Street flagpole.

Earlier in the year, the Flagpole Preservation Committee conducted a fund raiser and sweepstakes to support and publicize the effort to restore the historic landmark at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Main Street. Current Borough of Newtown Burgess and “flagpole keeper” Chris Gardner, Steve Bennett, former First Selectman Pat Llodra, and Bruce Walczak formed the committee and executed a successful fundraising campaign.

Major contributors were The Borough of Newtown, The Town of Newtown, the Newtown Lions Club, the Newtown Rotary Club, and Main Street residents Ken and Laura Lerman.

All total, individuals and organizations contributed more than $10,000, the fund-raising goal, to complete the scraping, painting, and installation of new energy saving LED lighting on the pole. The winter and summer flags are provided by Newtown Hardware and the Newtown Lions Club, respectively.

The Flagpole Preservation Committee conducted a free sweepstakes open to all who completed a coupon published in The Newtown Bee, with the winner receiving a retired summer flag. During the campaign, the committee decide to add the past winter flag as a second place prize.

Greg Smith won the summer flag and Kelly Urso is the proud owner of the well-worn winter flag.

For those unfamiliar with the traffic slowing ritual, twice a year the Lions Club and volunteers from Newtown Hook & Ladder meet early on a Saturday morning to lower the previous season’s flag and raise the new flag. Drivers on Main Street and Church Hill Road during those times have the experience of seeing the raising or lowering of the huge 20x30-foot summer flag.

The Flagpole Preservation Committee has extended gratitude to all those who contributed to the successful effort of restoring and refurbishing the community’s iconic flagpole. Members also thanked The Newtown Bee for its continued support of the flagpole and the committee’s work.

Newtown Hook & Ladder volunteers assist local Lions Club members May 23 as they begin unfurling the huge summer flag that will fly atop the Main Street flagpole until fall. — Steve Bennett photo
From left, Steve Bennett, Greg Smith, Bruce Walczak, Kelly Urso, Pat Llodra, and Chris Gardner are pictured with appropriate face coverings after Newtown Hook & Ladder and Lions Club volunteers hoisted the summer flag on Main Street, May 23. As part of a fundraiser to underwrite flagpole repairs, the Flagpole Preservation Committee held a sweepstakes for a former summer flag, which was won by Smith, and the most recent winter flag, which Urso won. — Photo courtesy Newtown Lions Club
On May 26, Lions Club volunteer Doug Body is pictured installing one of the many American flags flying up and down Main Street as Steve Bennett steadies the ladder and Kevin Corey assists. —Bee Photo, Crevier
From left, Shannon D’Amico, Joe Sullivan, and Cathleen Dauenhauer unload food donations for FAITH Food Pantry being donated by Lori and Emma Petrillo during the May 24 food drive at Reed Intermediate School sponsored by Ben’s Lighthouse. — Bee Photo, Voket
Memorial Day brought families and neighbors together to enjoy the seasonably pleasant weather and outdoor festivities. Here, from left, Joe Novella, Margaret Donovan, Alec Novella, Emily Giddeon, and Aidan Donovan are joined by pooches Ruby & Chubbs during one such gathering over the holiday weekend. — photo courtesy Joe Novella
On Memorial Day family and neighbors — observing appropriate distancing — gathered on the Pilgrim Lane lawn of Sheila and David Doherty to enjoy a concert of patriotic tunes. While son Mitchell and David look on, nieces Samantha on flute, and Abigail Donovan on violin, joined music educator Sheila Doherty playing french horn, and her older son, Bruce, on trombone.  Also honored for their military service were neighbors Bill Duffy and John Crisalli. — photo courtesy Laura Duffy
Boats zig-zagged around Lakes Lillinonah and Zoar during most of the Memorial Day holiday weekend as friends and families celebrated the unofficial beginning of the summer along the Housatonic. —Bee Photo, Voket
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