Forest Hills honors U.S. heroes

Forest Hills honors U.S. heroes
By Steve Mosco

Residents lined Metropolitan Avenue in remembrance of veterans at the annual Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade Sunday.

The throngs of onlookers waved American flags at servicemen and women while distinguished guests, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, marched to the beat of numerous drums.

“This isn’t just a day off,” said Janet Recchi. “We’re here to honor our veterans because without them we wouldn’t be able to have parades at all.”

Marching along with Bloomberg were elected officials, including state Sens. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), as well as City Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

“It’s a time we set aside to honor the ones charged with protecting our freedoms,” Ulrich said. “The crowd here today is a testament to the kind of communities we have across Queens. Men and women laid down their lives for our country and we gather to honor them.”

The Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade dates back to 1946 and Barbara Stuchinski, one of the parade’s grand marshals, has been around for 60 of them.

Stuchinski is the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association president, Parks Committee chairwoman of Community Board 6 and deputy chief and co-chairwoman of the community board’s Community Emergency Response Team. She is also a member of American Legion Post No. 1424.

“It’s a tremendous honor to serve as a grand marshal,” said Stuchinski, 76, noting that her father served in World War I.

The second grand marshal, Robert E. O’Malley, a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran, received the Medal of Honor for his service.

The parade was hosted by American Legion Continental Post No. 1424 and in particular by Vietnam veteran Gene Burch, the longest-serving member of the post’s parade committee.

“When I walk down that avenue, I’m thinking of every individual that served with me, but also of all the other men and women, including the ones that are fighting in Afghanistan right now,” he said. “I’m always thinking of them.”

Each year since 1946, the parade was solely sponsored by the American Legion Post, but because of financial cutbacks the legion reached out to TD Bank to help with funding this year. The Forest Hills Kiwanis Club also sponsored the parade.

As the parade wound down Metropolitan Avenue, it came to a stop at Remsen Memorial Cemetery, where the city Parks Department joined elected officials in honoring Thomas Winberry, a Korean War veteran and former commander of the legion post who died last year.

“It’s important that we do everything we can to honor the vets who have died but also those who remain with us,” said Addabbo. “A parade is a small gesture, but we hope it raises awareness, especially in the younger generation.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.