Memorial services will be part of pilgrimage in the South Side, Hilltop
May 25, 2021
After a very disappointing 2020, in which the South Side Hilltop Memorial Day Pilgrimage was canceled because of Covid-19 concerns, the event is on the 2021 docket and will take place Memorial Day Monday, May 31.
The 16-stop, decades-old pilgrimage will begin with the traditional setting sail of the memorial wreath in the Monongahela River at the 18th Street boat launch in South Side Riverfront Park and will conclude at about 11:45 a.m. with a program near the entrance to South Side Cemetery. An addition this year will be a flyover by the 911th Aircraft Wing at 10 a.m.
Participants will commemorate all fallen brethren by driving from one site to the next, affirming and honoring the brave military personnel - our families and our friends and neighbors - lost in wars and conflicts of assorted sizes before and since the inception of the United States of America.
Everyone is welcome to join those mourning and celebrating our loved ones at each or all of the 16 pilgrimage destinations.
A veterans' group committed and dedicated to appearing at all of the 16 sites includes members of the South Side Hilltop Memorial Day Pilgrimage Committee, co-chaired by Curtis "Snuffy" Schmitt and Philip "Woody" Ortego.
Among the local dignitaries who plan to be at the boat launch at 8 a.m. on the 31st are Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald, State Senator Jay Costa and Magistrate Eugene Riccardi, who is District Judge of Pittsburgh Wards 4, 16 and 17.
Ann Sharding, a retired magistrate and district judge, says she will join the pilgrimage at the Mt. Oliver Firehouse as is her personal tradition.
Tony Moreno will be keynote speaker at South Side Cemetery.
Moreno, a 2021 Pittsburgh mayoral candidate, was a military police paratrooper in the U.S. Army Airborne who was deployed three times overseas to Germany and Panama and who then served 24 years with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
Each stop includes a short prayer, the placing of a wreath, a rifle salute by a six-member squad, a bagpipe rendition of "Taps" and a bugle tribute by members of the Warble family, whose matriarch, Linda Diane Warble, died Feb. 24, 2020.
Adam Warble will be the bugler, Andrew Warble the bagpiper. They may be joined by their sisters, Alexis and April.
Roughly every 15 minutes, those making the pilgrimage drive from site to site, the timing of each arrival necessarily being approximate. After the 8 a.m. wreath launch, the stops are as follows:
8:15 a.m. -- VFW Post 6675, S. 20th at Sidney Streets.
8:30 a.m. – Carnegie Library, 2205 E. Carson St.
8:45 a.m. – Vietnam Veterans Memorial, E. Carson at S. 18th Streets. (Vietnam Veterans Inc. Honor Guard participating at this site.)
9 a.m. – Polish Veterans Memorial, 1807 Jane St.
9:15 a.m. – Fire Station #24, 1724 Mary St.
9:30 a.m. – South High School Memorial, E. Carson at S. 10th Streets.
9:45 a.m. – Armstrong Park Memorial, Sarah at S. 12th Streets.
10 a.m. – Mission Street Memorial, 2315 Mission Street (across from St. Josephat Church).
10:15 a.m. -- Pius Street Memorial Garden, 105 Pius St.
11 a.m. -- 30th Ward Memorial, Brownsville Road at Suncrest Street.
11:15 a.m. -- Boy Scout Veterans Memorial, Brownsville Road between Birmingham and Linnview Avenues.
11:30 a.m. -- St. Adalbert Cemetery, 1512 Brownsville Road.
The final cemetery stop will include the National Anthem and other selections to be sung by the Carrick Community Choir, an invocation by Deacon Jim Grab, a roll call of recently departed comrades, the placing of wreaths, a rifle salute to the deceased by marksman Philip Ortego, the keynote address by Tony Moreno and the playing of "Taps."
Besides Ortego, Schmitt and Grab, the Hilltop committee consists of Officer of the Day Jim Wrzesinski, Treasurer Bob Meussner, Ways and Means Chairman Bob Szoszorek, Chaplain Johnny Vaulet, Media Representative Ed Blank and volunteers Frank Ford and Rege Ketter.
The committee collects flags and wreaths for placement at several district cemeteries during the week before Memorial Day.
The pilgrimage is supported by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars James P. Cryster Memorial Post 6675, American Legion Carrick-Brentwood Post 725, St. Adalbert Post 1522, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 76, Vietnam Veterans Inc, Vietnam Veterans of America, Italian American War Veterans and Military Officers Association of America.
Such traditions reinforce our sense of well-being and self-worth. They enable us to celebrate life joyously and commemorate our losses respectfully.
The pilgrimage is our way of saying, "Thank you, brothers and sisters, for the sacrifice of your lives in our behalf. You were there for us then. We lost you, but we love you, and we are here for you now. Your lives mattered. You made a difference."