Margot Williams and her boyfriend John Blackwood, above, were over from Schoharie today, enjoying the opening of Glimmerglass State Park, among those that Governor Cuomo Sunday ordered reopened for the summer. Admission was free, but people were handed a list of rules to follow to limit the spread of COVID-19. Inset right, the beach was open to swimmers, but beachgoers were required to space their blankets 10 feet apart. Inset left, even trash cans were emphasizing the message: Exercise social distancing! The playground was fenced in and closed, and drivers were required to skip a space in parking their cars. (Cheryl Clough/AllOTSEGO.com)
There was no parade, and the crowds that usually cluster around the Memorial Walkway in Oneonta’s Neahwa Park were noticeably absent during the annual Memorial Day Celebration this morning. Above, Master of Ceremonies Les Grummons salutes as “Taps” is played for attendees, who brought wreathes and listened to a short speech from Mayor Gary Herzig. Following the ceremony, some members of the legion stopped by the home of John Forman, left, to salute him alongside fellow WWII veteran Fred Hicken. Returning to Legion Post 259, the veterans were surprised with complementary lunches from Brooks’ BBQ, courtesy of The Porch Fairies, anonymous donors who wanted to make sure veterans were honored. In addition to lunch, the Porch Fairies also dropped off gift cards for groceries for any veteran in need. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – For Fred Hicken, a few post-graduation classes at Oneonta High School made all the
“I was 17 when I went to Albany to register for the Navy,” he said. “It was April 1945. I had graduated in 1944, but went back to take some business classes, including typing.”
As a result, he was assigned to personnel work stateside, avoiding the conflict.
Hicken is one of fewer than a dozen World War II veterans who remain in Oneonta. “We’ve lost quite a few over the last few years,” said Terry Harkenreader, Commander of the Oneonta American Legion. “We’re starting to lose Korea vets too.”
In Cooperstown, only three World War II era veterans remain. “Last year the Veterans’ Club attended two dozen funerals,” said Floyd Bourne, the club’s new commander. “It’s eating into our Vietnam veterans too.”
Ahead of next weekend’s Memorial Day services (see Page B1) Cooperstown volunteers placed more than 400 flags on the graves of service members; in Oneonta, more than 3,000 were placed.
In February 1946, Hicken was posted to the Sampson Naval Training Base near Geneva, at the top of Seneca Lake. “The Germans had given up, so I was assigned as a typist in the separation center,” he said. “I was working in a room with 30 other typists, typing up papers for Navy veterans returning from the Pacific Theater. “I was very fortunate; I had choice duty!”
Discharged that June, he signed up for the Reserves. He came back to Oneonta and enrolled at Hartwick College, but in November 1950, as the Korean War was starting, he was called back into service. “The last time I took the passenger train from Oneonta to Albany was that trip,” he said.
He was sent first to San Francisco, then to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. “Before I left, I went to a doctor and asked him for pills because I thought I would get seasick,” he said. “He gave me 100 pills. There wasn’t a sick bay on the aircraft carrier we took to Hawaii, so I gave away about 90 of those pills to the other guys.”
He was again assigned to office duty. “Going back to high school was a good choice,” he said. “It kept me from going to Korea.”
He worked in Pearl Harbor until he was discharged in June 1952 as yeoman, third class, when he returned to Oneonta. He met his wife Ellie at Hartwick in 1953, and they were married the following year. He worked for her father, Howard Brown, at his insurance agency, as well as serving as the manager of the Tri-County Motor Club.
John Foreman, Oneonta, also served in the Army, 24th Infantry, in World War II, from 1946 to 1948, stationed in southern Japan following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and after VJ Day, Aug. 14, 1945. “The fighting was over, but the war wasn’t just yet,” he said. “I was never in combat because of that bomb.”
The village where he was stationed hadn’t been hit, but on the way there, he remembered seeing the devastation. “The train station looked like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “The top floor was lying on the ground, and if you could have picked it up, you could have fit it right back on top.”
Because the war was still not officially over when he arrived, soldiers were not allowed to go into town unaccompanied. “We couldn’t fraternize with the Japanese,” he said. “We couldn’t eat in their restaurants or drink in their bars. If you had to go into town, you had to go with someone else.”
Foreman was still in Japan on VE Day, May 6, 1945, and remained until the end of 1947. He went back to his native Kingston and moved to Oneonta in 1961, when he opened Medical Arts Pharmacy. He sold the business and retired in 1990.
And on the day he signed up, Fred also learned one more thing – that he had been going by the wrong name his whole life. “I’d always gone by Fredrick,” he said. “I gave the recruiter my birth certificate, and it said my name was just Fred!”
As two eagles circled, Oneonta’s Memorial Day celebration was conducted this morning at the memorial at the end of Veterans’ Memorial Walkway before the start of the parade. American Legion Commander Gary Ballard, top photo, oversees Troop 23 Boy Scouts Giovanni Hromada, Ben Casola, Kaleb Bergeron, Andrew Pierce, Caneb Casey and Noah Miller as they place wreaths at stations marking the different branches of the military. At right, OHS Valedictorian Aben Carrington recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address alongside Master of Ceremonies Les Grummons, to the crowds gathered in the park. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
The American Legion Color Guard – from left, Gary Walters, Gary Ballard, Tony Moore, Wayne Gregory, Terry Harkenreader and Harry Martin – marches down Main Street. during the Memorial Day parade this morning in Oneonta. They are followed by the rifle detail from Fort Drum that volunteered for the occasion, under the direction of Sgt. Ericson Brenner, son of Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner. Following the parade, crowds gathered at the Veterans’ Memorial in Neahwa Park for services honoring fallen soldiers, veterans and their families. At right, OHS Valedictorian Teagan Mackey recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to the crowd, including Lincoln look-alike Pete Lindemann, Cobleskill, foreground, who was dressed as the former President for the occasion. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Past Cooperstown Vets Club Commander Doug Walker, left, and current Commander John Famulare place a wreath on the monument to Cooperstown’s veterans at the top of Pine Boulevard. The village’s Memorial Day commemoration took place the Soldiers & Sailors monument in front of county Courthouse with Dr. Paul Russo, Bassett Hospital optometrist who served in the Army’s 101st Airborne and, more recently, the state Air National guard, gave the address. At right, Jack Adams of Cooperstown and his sister, Carol Highfield, stand at attention during the National Anthem, sung by Russo. Beth Kane, whose father was killed in World War II, recited “In Flanders’ Field,” and Famulare recited another poem, from the Vietnam War. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
CANOE REGATTA – 6 a.m. Professional, recreational paddlers race 70 miles down the Susquehanna River. Launch at Brookwood Point, 6000 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. Finish at General Clinton Park, 2507 Hinkley Ln., Bainbridge. Call 607-386-1351 or visit www.canoeregatta.org/6_00am_C4.html
PARADE – 11 a.m. Cooperstown Vets Club remembers the fallen soldiers. Main St., Cooperstown. Call 607-547-8282.
ONEONTA – With Memorial Day around the corner, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today took advantage of the Office of General Services drop-off location at the Homer Folks Facility to properly retire a used American flag.
He encourages others to do the same.
“The Stars and Stripes represent the sacrifices made by our service members in defense of our rights and freedoms,” said Senator Seward. “I appreciate the service being provided by OGS to collect worn flags for their proper, respectful retirement.”
ONEONTA MEMORIAL DAY PARADE – 10 a.m. Line up on Market St., members of the armed services, and many more organizations will proceed down Main St. to Neahwa Park for memorial services by the American Legion. Info, Vic Bronner, (607) 263-5349, firstname.lastname@example.org
COOPERSTOWN MEMORIAL DAY PARADE – 11 a.m., from the Cooperstown Vets Club up Main Street to the Soldiers & Sailor Monument in front of the county office building, where commemorations are planned.
GENERAL CLINTON CANOE REGATTA – 7 a.m. Entrants in the 55th annual, 70 mile canoe regatta, enter the river for this test of endurance. Brookwood Point, 6000 St. Rt. 80, West Lake Rd., Cooperstown. The finish line is in the General Clinton Park, Bainbridge. Info, otsegolandtrust.org/places-to-explore-103/brookwood-point