SCARBOROUGH — Her failing eyesight kept 91-year-old Florence Link from seeing much of the Memorial Day services at the Maine Veterans’ Home, but what she heard and felt was powerful.

She heard 200 people singing “God Bless America,” bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace” and the names of Mainers killed in recent conflicts recited by an officer choking back tears. What she felt was a strong and lifelong belief in the honor of serving one’s country.

It was that belief that prompted her to go to work after high school in South Portland’s shipyards at the start of World War II and help get ship blueprints in order. It’s what caused her to join the Navy’s then-new women’s program, known as the WAVES, where she repaired airplane cameras. And it’s what caused her to be present Monday, to remember all those who were called to serve but didn’t come back.

“I’ve always been proud to serve. We felt we had a duty to go,” said Link, sitting in a wheelchair, with a Stars and Stripes scarf around her neck. “I’ll always come (to Memorial Day ceremonies) because I have so much respect for everyone who has served and is serving.”

‘THE SACRIFICE THEY MADE’

Florence Link, a resident at the Maine Veteran's Home in Scarborough, remembers her service with the Navy Waves during WWII.

Florence Link, a resident at the Maine Veteran’s Home in Scarborough, remembers her service with the Navy Waves during WWII. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Link and the other 150 residents of the Maine Veterans’ Home on Route 1 were thankful that staff, local veterans, police and the weather all worked together to bring Monday’s ceremony of remembrance to them. The facility was supposed to be the last stop on the route of the town’s annual Memorial Day parade. But because of a threat of rain, organizers decided to cancel the parade and stage an indoor ceremony at the veterans home instead. The forecast of rain was also responsible for the cancellation of morning parades in more than a dozen southern Maine towns and cities, including Portland.

Maureen Carland, administrator of the veterans home, called Phil Ceaser of American Legion Post 76 in Scarborough at 6:30 a.m. to begin plans for an indoor Memorial Day event. Ceaser then called Scarborough police and others, to get the word out and find people willing to bring the event indoors.

The 40-minute ceremony began around 10 a.m. and featured bagpipe music by the Kora Temple Highlanders, police and firefighters in dress uniform, prayers, patriotic music, and a short speech by Maj. Gen. John Libby, former head of the Maine National Guard.

Libby talked about the history of Memorial Day, how it began as Decoration Day, a day to clean and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. He lamented that for so many people Memorial Day is known for retail sales, barbecues and the start of summer more than as a quiet day to remember deceased veterans.

He told the audience that the best thing they could do to honor the idea of Memorial Day was to thank veterans still living, for their service.

During his remarks, Libby listed the names of Mainers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, his voice cracking at times.

“I think of them today, and the sacrifice they made,” Libby said.

Jason Greenleaf and his son, Jackson, 9, explore Black Point Cemetery following a Memorial Day service in Scarborough. Jason, who is a Scarborough firefighter, says both sides of the family include police officers and firefighters that are buried at Black Point.

Jason Greenleaf and his son, Jackson, 9, explore Black Point Cemetery following a Memorial Day service in Scarborough. Jason, who is a Scarborough firefighter, says both sides of the family include police officers and firefighters that are buried at Black Point. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

While rain moved much of Scarborough’s Memorial Day remembrance inside, it did not stop Ceaser and about a dozen others from visiting five local cemeteries and memorials Monday morning, to honor veterans with brief ceremonies at each. They started at Black Point Cemetery at 8 a.m. and were busy all morning.

But organizers made sure that the residents of the Maine Veterans’ Home did not have to travel, or brave the rain, to take part in this day of remembrance.

“I think it would have been a lot harder for most of us to go outside, in the rain,” Link said.

Link grew up in a much different Scarborough, before the Maine Turnpike and shopping plazas, on her family’s farm. After high school, she got a job at the shipyards in South Portland, where thousands of people turned out Liberty Ships. She worked in the layout department, helping to make sure blueprints and designs were in order and getting to the right people.

As soon as she heard about an opportunity to do more, she did. In 1942, Congress established a branch of the Naval Reserve for women, known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES.

Steve Crocker of American Legion Post 76, bows his head in a moment of silence during a brief Memorial Day service at Black Point Cemetery in Scarborough.

Steve Crocker of American Legion Post 76, bows his head in a moment of silence during a brief Memorial Day service at Black Point Cemetery in Scarborough. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Link enlisted, went to boot camp, and was eventually stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she repaired cameras mounted on airplanes for surveillance and mapping.

Two of her daughters, who were with her Monday, said part of the reason she was chosen to fix cameras is that she had an aptitude for all things mechanical. On the farm she was known to keep the family’s Model T Ford running, sometimes with just wire and tape, they said.

While in the WAVES, she met her husband and married. The couple came back to Scarborough after the war and raised their family. Link became a teacher, eventually specializing in science, and retired after 25 years.

At 91, macular degeneration has robbed her of her frontal vision, and she can no longer walk on her own.

But Monday, in her mind’s eye, she could see clearly her experiences during World War II, her work at the shipyards, and all the servicemen and women she met along the way.

“I think that is what I think about most, all the people I met who served,” Link said. “Some wonderful people.”

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