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World War II veteran Frank E. Stevens died eight years ago, but John Stevens said he felt his father's presence beside him yesterday at the Mount Carmel Cemetery during the 57th annual Memorial Day march and services in North Toledo.
The younger Stevens, a pre-arrangement adviser with the cemetery, sat at a portable table to observe the memorial service and hand out literature on the cemetery, owned by the Diocese of Toledo.
An oil painting of his father with a blue-colored silhouette of a younger version of the elder Mr. Stevens in uniform stood on the table, seemingly overlooking the ceremony.
“Every time I look at this thing, I think he's here,” Mr. Stevens said. “He didn't talk about the war much, but he was a proud veteran.
“I'm proud of what he did for our country and wanted to take [the painting] with me today,” he said.
About 300 people took part in the morning march that went from Lagrange Street and Central Avenue to the cemetery on Manhattan Boulevard.
The painting of Mr. Stevens' father was the project of John Stevens' daughter, Lauren. Miss Stevens completed her sophomore year at Bowling Green State University this month, majoring in digital arts.
She said the drawing was a tribute to her grandfather as she knew him later in life, and for his military service.
“My grandma gave me a photo of him in the service after he died and I was struck by the similarity in the way he looked then and the way I remembered him,” said Miss Stevens, who did not attend the service. “I wanted to show that in the painting.”
The annual march and service is sponsored by the American Legion's Argonne Post 545, Buddy Frankowski Post 5530, Polish Vets Post 74, and the Jude Thaddeus Post 1675. It is one of the largest Memorial Day programs in Northwest Ohio.
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The service, which ran about an hour, was highlighted with a speech by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Bowman, a Korean War veteran.
Judge Bowman asked the audience to remember the military personnel who have died during the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As we pay tribute to our fallen soldiers, sailors, and Marines, we must stand united behind them, the same way we have done in the past,” he said.
Judge Bowman read the names of soldiers who died in Afghanistan in Operation Anaconda as he told the crowd to reach out to families of those serving in the military.
“Their ages ranged from 21 to 36 and [they were] in the prime of their lives,” Judge Bowman said. “They risked everything that was important to them. Your support of our soldiers is the most powerful weapon we have in our war against terrorism. Hold these fallen soldiers, sailors, and Marines close to your heart.”
The grand marshal of the parade was Len Kowalski of Toledo, a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He said the country's recent military action in the Middle East has been a reminder of why ceremonies like these are so meaningful.
“I think this is a lesson for the younger generation,” Mr. Kowalski said. “I think it's very important that we honor those who have died then and just recently. They paid the ultimate price.”