Rolling memorial tribute brings parade to people

Organization steps in for second year after COVID-19 cancellation

NEWTON, Mass. — COVID-19 cases may be creeping down in Massachusetts. But who knew the entire state would be open for business by Memorial Day Weekend? Certainly not the City of Newton, which planned no Memorial Day parade because of the pandemic.

No matter. In stepped the Nonantum Children’s Christmas Party Association to, once again, bring the parade to the people. For a second year, the organization sponsored a rolling Memorial Day tribute through numerous neighborhoods in Newton, Watertown and Waltham, towns that normally have parades it would participate in.

“So, I grew up coming to the parades as a kid and just kind of took an interest,” said Anthony Clemente, the parade organizer. “I got involved back in 2012, and over the years just got more and more involved with the organizing.”

Clemente said his goal is simple.

“It’s important to me to just make sure we never forget the people who made that ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “That’s what Memorial Day is all about.”

And so at 1 p.m. Monday, the dozens of vehicles involved in the rolling parade left a parking lot on Linwood Avenue and headed up Adams Street towards Washington.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a child myself,” said parade participant Sharon Merrill. “It’s about remembering the people who helped build this country.”

Her partner in the pick-up was Anthony Clemente’s mother, Kim.

“It kind of is an emotional thing, because they come out and they’re clapping and waving and thanking us,” she said.

The ‘floats’ consisted of pick-ups and tow trucks and other rugged vehicles, with no effort made to conceal their actual purpose. But they were each festooned with American flags and large placards promoting various military issues from POW/MIAs to those currently deployed to veterans contemplating suicide.

The procession also remembered current veterans living in Newton, stopping at several of their addresses to pay tribute. One of them was Buddy Cerrone, who lives on Chapel Street. He is a Vietnam War veteran who served in the military from 1966 to 1969. As a P.A. system blasted “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” parade participants, plus spectators along the street, burst into applause for Cerrone, who was clearly moved by it all.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Cerrone said. “I was not expecting it. It means so much to have all these people honor all the veterans. Especially those lucky enough to be here with us.”

Cerrone said he remembers, on Memorial Day, local service people who did not come home, most especially Richard Forte of Newton, killed in Vietnam one month shy of his 20th birthday on December 23, 1968. Forte was in his wife’s homeroom at Newton High School, Cerrone remembered.

“Like I said a long time ago when we did the Vietnam Memorial on Washington Street,” Cerrone said. “We were the warriors and the parents were the real heroes.”