The Vienna Memorial Day Association, established in 1941, organizes the annual commemoration of members of the United States Armed Forces who died during the nation's wars. Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday in May.
History of Memorial Day
The origins of Memorial Day may be traced to local observations during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Women's organizations in Southern cities such as Richmond, Virginia, decorated the graves of the Confederate Army dead.
The first Memorial Day observation is credited to the actions of freed slaves of Charleston, South Carolina, honored Union Army dead who had died in an open-air prison located at the city's Washington Race Course. After re-interring the soldiers' bodies in marked graves, the freedmen built a fence around the cemetery. Then, on May 1, 1865, a parade of 10,000 marched to the race course and the cemetery. Three thousand African American children, carrying roses, sang "John Brown's Body." After Scripture readings and the singing of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and several spirituals, the gathering broke to listen to speeches and have picnics.
General John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Civil War veterans association, the Grand Army of the Republic, issued on May 5, 1869, a proclamation that a "Decoration Day" should be observed throughout the nation. May 30 was chosen as the date. By 1890, every northern state had adopted officially the holiday. Southern states individually held their own days of remembrance on days from late April to mid-June.
"Memorial Day" was first used in 1882, but it was not until the mid twentieth century that the term was commonly used. It became the official name of the holiday in 1967, and in 1968, the United States Congress passed into law the Uniform Holidays Act, moving Memorial Day (along with three other holidays) from its May 30 date to the last Monday in May. This law took effect in 1971.
Memorial Day in Vienna Township
In April 1941 Reverend D. H. Funk, the minister of the Vienna Presbyterian Church, called a meeting "to create a permanent organization ... to supplement the decorating of our war veterans['] graves with an appropriate formal program." The purpose of this group, called the Vienna Memorial Day Association, was to honor annually the soldiers who had died in any of the wars in which the United States had been involved.
The first officers of the Association were Dr. John R. Anderson (president), Clifford Daubenmire (vice president), Mary Nolan (secretary), and Mrs. Charles C. Scott (treasurer).
The Association's first observance was held on Sunday, May 21, 1941, a week before the national holiday. A church service was held in the Vienna Presbyterian Church. An assembly followed at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Township Green. Appropriate music, readings, and speeches were the order of the day. Father Gaffney of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church offered the benediction. A children's procession decorated the soldiers' graves with geraniums. Taps was sounded as 107 graves were honored.
By the end of 1941, the United States had entered World War II. The request for additional grave markers to ready for the annual Decoration Day observance was denied because certain metals were dedicated the the war effort. Services were gain held on the Sunday prior to May 30.
Father John Roach of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church began his long service to this organization in 1945, and this service continued until 1987.
Services were held in the Vienna High School gymnasium. In 1955, the gymnasium was dedicated as the Vienna Memorial Auditorium in honor of all servicemen and servicewomen of the community.
In 1943 the Vienna High School band first played at the annual service. With consolidation of the Fowler and Vienna school districts in 1962, the Mathews High School Band played two services: Fowler in the morning, and Vienna in the afternoon.
Two new flagpoles were dedicated in 1964. These flagpoles were manufactured at Hoffman Iron and Steel and were the gifts of Ralph B. Hoffman and Paul L. Gibson, both Township trustees in that year. One of these flagpoles, located in front of the Vienna Township Volunteer Fire Department, is dedicated to the memory of fallen firefighter Thomas K. Scott.
The 1975 service took on special significance, memorializing also the death of Dr. John R. Anderson.
In the 1980s, Vienna's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3521 stepped in to share expenses with the Township and the Veterans Service Commission. Members of Post #3521 also devoted hours of time to mark graves with flags and flowers for the Memorial Day service.
This entry is adapted from "Vienna Memorial Day Association" in Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), pp. 188-190.