Honor Park: 101 years of honoring our area’s veterans

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Honor Park, members of Patchen-Briggs VFW 307, Sunday 5/26/19 [Photo: Walt Bankes]

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[Photo: Walt Bankes]

In a ceremony originating during World War I and continuing since, supporters and members of the Patchen-Briggs VFW post 307 gathered the Sunday before Memorial Day at Honor Park.

Located on the southeast corner of South Goodman and Linden Streets and dedicated to the memory of all veterans, the park is the smallest Rochester city park. The gardens are populated by perennial donations, city provided annuals, and stone pathways donated by the VFW post 307. In 2012, the south leg of Linden Street was closed next to the park, doubling the size of the garden space.

SEE Photo Diary of Linden St Closing – The Rebirth of Honor Park

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[Photo: Walt Bankes]

Beneath the permanent American flag and next to several smaller ones installed for the occasion, short speeches honoring the service and sacrifice of all veterans were given. A prayer was offered. Wreaths were placed on the stone monument inscribed “HONOR PARK IN MEMORY OF ALL VETERANS.” In past years, a gun salute was given, but the practice is now discontinued.

(FOR ALL PICTURES, SEE WALT BANKES’ FULL MONTAGE Walter Bankes Memorial Day 2019 album. Walt and his wife Nan Schaller live next to the park. Nan and Karen Atkinson are the primary volunteers maintaining the gardens. Facebook.com/honorparkrochester )

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Democrat and Chronicle, November 10, 1918

To find more of the history of the ceremony and park, I searched the Democrat and Chronicle archives, finding a few relevant articles. In the fall of 1918, the park was created but not named. As many members of the surrounding community were serving in the military as World War I raged, the park was named Honor Roll Park (later shortened to Honor Park). In October, an American flag was raised. Two days before the November 11th armistice, the park was officially christened.

A 14 by 19 inch box made of galvanized iron and painted maroon with red, white and blue stripes around a heavy glass front was mounted on a four and one half foot steel pole set in concrete. On the box was written the names of 60 local men currently serving. As seen in the caption, six streets in the vicinity were represented on the Roll.  While we don’t know for sure, the honoring ceremony appears to have uninterruptedly continued since. In the early decades, the ceremony was on Veteran’s Day but at some point switched to Memorial Day or the Sunday before.

The next most significant ceremony was November 21, 1942, the first Veteran’s Day since the United States entered World War II (although the ceremony took place after Veteran’s Day).  The Democrat and Chronicle article explicitly mentions that the ceremony was repeating the original dedication in 1918. Another flag was raised. At that time, the box was still in the park, but at some later date was removed.

Democrat and Chronicle, Nov 22 1942

Democrat and Chronicle, Nov 22 1942

As America was immersed in its second world war, the ceremony drew a large crowd of 300. A lively parade commenced with martial music from a drum and bugle corps led by “a red uniformed, strutting majorette.”

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Democrat and Chronicle, Nov 10, 1969

The 1969 event — as many Americans were serving in Indochina — also drew a large gathering.

307 Post member Raymond Schultheis says the granite monument was added to the park sometime in the 1970s, dedicated by Trott-Emerich VFW post 2884. Nan says that passerby’s occasionally leave a stone or shell on the monument as a form of recognition. About 15 years ago, Trott-Emerich disbanded and 307 took over the event.

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[Photo: Walt Bankes]

All plan to come back next year for the 102nd ceremony.


On the Memorial Day Parade and The Army of the Republic of Viet Nam

Remembering the fallen of the RCSD from America’s past wars