Memorial Day: An Observance and an Observation

Memorial Day: An Observance and an Observation
Bob Murphy, Sr.

Assumption-St. Paul's Cemetery sits solemnly atop Harris Avenue. It also provides a space for the community to support each other in trying times.


Like many families, last weekend my family and I visited the cemetery.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the US on the last Monday of May. It’s a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

Mechanicville area veterans and their families have the option of being buried at the Saratoga National Cemetery or in a local cemetery.

Memorial Day is also a day when friends and families visit the graves of loved ones who have passed on, regardless of whether or not they served in any branch of the services. Over the last couple of years, I have made many visits to the grave of my daughter, Maggie, and to my parents’ graves. The more I went, the longer I stayed visiting other family (O’Connor, DeVoe, Maloney, Murphy, Gorman) along with old time Mechanicville family names (Panza, Timpanaro, Marcone, Izzo, Sgambati,etc..)

This Memorial Day weekend, we went to the cemetery accompanied by a little sadness and some gardening tools. It was a much busier place than on our usual visit. Maggie’s section is the section with some recent burials and, therefore, a more subdued atmosphere. On our way to my parents’ grave, we noticed a group of native Mechanicvillians apparently celebrating family and enjoying the holiday. It then occurred to me that, while it is an honor and a privilege to be buried in the Saratoga National Cemetery, in a small way it is a loss to the history of the Mechanicville community.

One day last year I was up for a visit and wanted to find my Aunt Doe and Uncle Wes DeVoe’s grave. I knew the section, but just could not find the site. Mrs. Molly Bango and Marie Phalen were there. Marie could tell I was searching, so she asked me who I was looking for. I told her. She called to Molly and asked. Without hesitation, Molly replies, “They are right over there.” I walked to the site in amazement.

It’s just how neighbors would talk and help each other. I went over to my parents’ grave with a new outlook. Who are their neighbors? Santagito (the parents of my Pruyn Avenue neighbor), Gagliardi, and Rocco to name a few. I went to my daughter Maggie’s grave and her neighbors were Froggy DeCelle, Matt Plunkett (my other daughter Kelly’s neighbor in the MHS Band), Walt and Andy Amann, and again Rocco — each person with his or her own story and each family making up a small part of the history of Mechanicville.

In forty years when Kelly’s kids are looking for family grave sites, will there be a Molly Bango for them? Or will that person with all the history be visiting the National Cemetery?  Maybe there should be a public registry in our cemetery listing all grave sites by section and plot number. No matter what material or technological solution may be conjured, there is still no replacing the personal touch of a Molly Bango.

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