SOUTH PORTLAND — Tom Delay of Lewiston began his military service when he was 17.

“We lost our football team, so I joined the Navy,” Delay said, recounting his time on the USS Saint Paul, a CA-73 heavy cruiser that saw action in Japan during World War II.

Delay didn’t have time to finish the story, but his ship fired the last salvo of the war on Japanese factories on Aug. 9, 1945, according to Vet2Vet Maine, and participated in the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay.

Memories such as these, unknown to most but unforgettable nearly eight decades later to some, were top of mind on Monday at South Portland’s Memorial Day parade.

Delay was among a group of servicemen and women waiting in a shuttle van from the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough, as the parade was set to kick off. They joined marching bands, civic groups and other participants who walked or rode the 1.5 miles from Southern Maine Community College to Veterans Monument at Mill Creek Park, to honor and mourn the United States military personnel who died while serving their country.

Crowds lined Broadway under weather conditions that couldn’t have been better – full sun, light breezes and temperatures in the 60s.


South Portland’s parade was organized by the South Portland War Veterans Memorial Association, composed of American Legion Post 35 and VFW Post 832. It was among the 20 or so parades that stepped off Monday in southern Maine. Other notable parades included a brief memorial service in Berwick for those lost at sea; a wreath-laying ceremony in Cape Elizabeth; a 5K Run and Remember race in Cumberland and a bell ceremony to honor veterans in Windham.

Sitting near Delay on the vets van was Diane Corlett. She was a surgeon’s assistant during the Vietnam war, working in Navy hospitals in San Diego and Oakland. Her husband, Jon, also served in the Navy in Vietnam.

Maurice Eastman of Belfast also was on the van. He served in the Air Force in the Korean War, supplying aircraft parts. It was his first time participating in a Memorial Day parade.

“It’s nice to get recognition and remember the people who served,” he said.

The Memorial Day celebration on Monday in South Portland. Sofia Aldinio/ Staff Photographer

The van pulled in shortly after the Grand Marshal’s convertible Mercedes pulled onto Broadway.

The procession was headed by Edward Cook, a Korean War veteran who served as Grand Marshal. Cook is a South Portland native and former commander of VFW Post 832. He served as a combat engineer – “more combat than engineer” – he said, working with a shovel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

The parade made its way down Broadway to a corner of Mill Creek Park. It’s set back from the busy roadway and the site of the city’s 12-year old Veterans Monument, crowned by a depiction of an eternal flame. The American flag waved gently at half-staff as the ceremony began.

Onlookers gathered and listened as military and civic leaders stood to hear a prayer of remembrance, the Pledge of Allegiance and a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by the South Portland High School band. Among the short speeches was one from Coast Guard Capt. Amy Florentino, commander for Sector Northern New England.

“For some, this is a day for barbecues and picnics,” Florentino said. “But we are here to remember those who laid down their lives so we can live in a safe and free country.”

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