South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Services planned at South Side and Hilltop monuments on Memorial Day


On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic, which was an organization of Union veterans from the Civil War, established Decoration Day for the nation to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.

The first large observance that year was held at Arlington National Cemetery.

By the end of the century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held nationwide to honor Civil War veterans.

After World War I, the day was expanded to honor all soldiers who died in all American wars.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.

On May 26, the South Side Hilltop Memorial Day Committee will hold its annual observance of Memorial Day and those who sacrificed their lives for our country, beginning with the placing of wreaths by various dignitaries at monuments on the South Side and Hilltop on Brownsville Rd.

Each site will feature the South Side/Hilltop Color Guard, rifle salutes, “Taps” by buglers, “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes, and prayer.

The caravan of roughly 15 cars will be accompanied by a police escort. All times are approximate.

The riverfront ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. with a wreath placed by Mayor William Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at South Side Riverfront Park.

These stops will follow: 8:20 a.m., VFW South Side Post 6675; 8:35 a.m., South Side Library monument; 8:50 a.m., South Side fire station; 9 a.m., Polish War monument; 9:10 a.m., Vietnam monument; 9:30 a.m., 10th St. monument; 9:40 a.m., 12th St. monument; 10 a.m., Zone 3 police station; 10:30 a.m., Mt. Oliver firehouse; 10:45 a.m., McDonald’s monument; 11 a.m., South Side Cemetery monument; 11:30 a.m., Cemetery reviewing stand, to be draped in the American flag.

The solemn service at South Side Cemetery will include: playing by buglers and bagpipers Adam, Alexandra, Andrew, and April Warble; The National Anthem and musical selections by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer Choir; Invocation by Pastor Nancy Stanny of Concord Presbyterian Church; Oration by Nestor Werkstein, retired colonel, U.S. Air Force; Roll Call of departed comrades; the placing of flowers; Benediction; Salute to the Dead by the firing squad; and the playing of “Taps.”

Immediately following the South Side Cemetery service, brief services will be held at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, St. Josaphat’s monument, and the Pius Street Honor Roll.

The final service will be held at American Legion St. Clair Post 694 in front of the monument at 1751 Arlingon Ave.

The South Side Hilltop Memorial Day Committee consists of South Side VFW Post 6675; American Legion St. Clair Post 694; American Legion Carrick-Brentwood Post 725; Catholic War Veterans: St. Adalbert Post 1522; Disabled American Veterans: Chapter 76, and Vietnam Veterans Inc.

The committee has dedicated its members to continuing the observance of Memorial Day as a day of remembrance for all veterans past, present, and future.

Besides the formal observance, volunteers will be placing flags on the graves of veterans in all cemeteries in the South Side and Hilltop communities, and wreaths on all of the local Honor Rolls.

Committee member Edward Skeehan, a member of Catholic War Veterans, has been involved in the Memorial Day event for more than 30 years.

“In the old days, the parade began at 23rd St., across South Side, and down to 10th St. The whole parade would ride on the incline to the top of Mount Oliver, march across Mount Oliver, and come out at South Side Cemetery,” he said.

Today, the Carrick resident, 87, who has difficulty walking, advises from his car.

He was also a member of the World War II monument committee behind the new Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial dedicated in Dec., 2013, and located between Heinz Field and the Del Monte Center on the North Side.

Mr. Skeehan, who will wear a Catholic War Veterans uniform and perhaps white gloves on Memorial Day, said the observance is important for never forgetting all to whom we owe our freedom and our country.

“I guess it’s kind of selfish, but I want to be remembered, too,” the World War II and Korean War veteran said.


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