Past grand marshals kick off weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2000


Wednesday, May 24, 2000

J.B. Collier remembers his first Memorial Day parade – 73 years ago, while in grade school.

Email newsletter signup

"All the kids marched with a flag in one hand and a flower in the other," Collier said.

The Ironton native, who will serve as honorary grand marshal in Monday’s Ironton Memorial Day Parade, served as a pilot in World War II with the 504th bomb group.

Collier joined dozens of Memorial Day Parade Committee volunteers, veterans and city residents in honoring past leaders of the parade Tuesday at the committee’s annual Past Grand Marshals Dinner.

This year’s parade will be led by grand marshal Kathy Boyd and parade commander Jerry Kerns.

Success is measured by the work of volunteers and this year’s parade will be successful, Mrs. Boyd said.

"Everybody worked so hard on this and it’s coming together so well," she said.

Jerry Kerns said he did not get to help with the parade as much as he would have liked because of an illness, but thanked everyone who gave of their time.

"Thanks to these people, we will get up and fly Monday morning."

One by one, past grand marshals and parade organizers rose to thank their friends, reflect on past parades and toast those soldiers and parade volunteers who have passed away.

And, all spoke of the importance of meaning behind not only the parade but the entire Memorial Day observance – the remembrance of veterans’ sacrifices to their country.

"I thoroughly agree that J.B. Collier is eminently qualified as this year’s honorary grand marshal," Navy veteran and dinner emcee Harold Spears said.

"He served his country like so many others and was a member of the caterpillar club," Spears said.

The caterpillar club was an informal military designation for those pilots who parachuted out of shot down airplanes in combat, he explained.

Collier lost several members of his crew when his bomber was shot down over the Pacific. He then spent hours in the water, waiting on rescue.

But, he stayed in the air to fight for this country, giving of himself to this country like so many others who should be honored on Memorial Day, Spears said.

Collier talked about his family – his father in World War I, a brother killed in Germany, his mother in the WACS.

"These kids today have no idea what it is," he added, speaking of Memorial Day.

The day will be a good day to think about veterans and family who have made a difference in life, Collier said.

Still, he doesn’t want to see a lot of long faces along the parade route, he said.

"Say, ‘You guys did a good job and thank you,’ and talk to people you haven’t’ seen at family get-togethers, reunions.

"It will be a good day."

The Ironton Memorial Day Parade will mark its 132nd running this year, with the theme "2000 – May We Never Forget."

It begins at 10 a.m., rain or shine.