The Birthplace of Memorial Day

The birthplace of Memorial Day occurred in nearby Waterloo, NY. There is a large NY State marker located on Routes 5 and 20, West Main Street at the southwest corner of Lafayette Park, in Waterloo with the following words:


On May 5, 1866, the residents of Waterloo held the first complete, community-wide observance of Memorial Day. They dedicated the entire day to honoring the Civil War dead in a solemn and patriotic manner. Throughout the village, flags, draped in mourning, flew at half mast. Ladies prepared wreathes and bouquets for each veteran’s grave. Businesses closed, and veterans, civic organizations and townspeople marched to the strains of martial music to the village cemeteries. There, with reverent prayers and patriotic ceremonies, the tradition of Memorial Day was born.

Henry C. Welles, a prominent citizen, first proposed the idea for a day completely devoted to honoring the Civil War dead. General John B. Murray, the Seneca County Clerk, who had commanded the 148th New York Infantry Regiment in the war, quickly advanced the thought and marshalled community support. Since that year, Waterloo has annually observed Memorial Day. New York, in 1873, became the first state to proclaim Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it was originally called, a public holiday.

In May 1966, a Joint resolution by the United States Congress and a proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson officially recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

While Memorial Day has always been an important day for me to honor the many dead soldiers in my past, this Memorial Day is extra special (and tough) because my Dad is now on the list of people I am honoring today. I would fly my flag at half-mast for my Dad if my flag pole allowed that, but I am still flying it for him.

2007-05-28 003


My Dad on the 1943 WWII U.S.S. Monterey aircraft carrier as an electrician during the Korean War.

P.S. I used to wear those wool pants he has on in this photo in the wintertime when I was a teenager – they were the most comfortable pants! Except if you had to go the bathroom bad, all of those buttons. . .


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jayne
    May 28, 2007 @ 07:52:41

    I will add your Dad to my thoughts today of those who served. Love and hugs aplenty to you today (((((Pam))))).


  2. Pam
    May 28, 2007 @ 08:06:53

    Thanks Jayne. Hugs to you, too. I think I’ll take some time today to scan in the rest of his Navy photos that I have here.


  3. Marty
    May 28, 2007 @ 09:36:16

    I never knew that about Memorial Day – thanks for the history lesson about how it all started. And my condolences about your father – I’m sure he’d be proud that you still remember him so fondly, and what you’re doing to honor him.


  4. lizalee
    May 28, 2007 @ 10:33:55

    It’s important to honor those who serve. Thanks for sharing that shot of your dad!


  5. Pam
    May 28, 2007 @ 11:15:56

    Marty – you’re welcome. And thank you about my Dad. He just passed away in April, so it’s still very fresh for me.
    Lizalee – I agree with you wholeheartedly. I take care of cleaning the tombstones of all of my ancestors in Onondaga Co, but especially those from the Revolutionary War and other wars.


  6. samibear
    May 28, 2007 @ 14:48:41

    Thank you, my Dad passed away in November. He was a WWII veteran.
    Mama Bear


  7. Pam
    May 28, 2007 @ 14:57:27

    Mama Bear – You’re welcome. I’m sorry that your Dad passed away, too. It’s not easy at all to have my Dad gone.


  8. Cathy
    May 28, 2007 @ 22:12:25

    Oh, Pam. I do know the ache in your heart. Today at my Dad’s grave site – I was saddened and yet relieved that the acute pain is really gone. It’s been 16 years. My heart goes out to you. Truly.

    I use to wear my Dad’s khaki army sweater vest when I was in high school. Dad was in the Normandy invasion – Omaha Beach. I was so proud of his service to his country.


  9. Mary
    May 28, 2007 @ 22:42:37


    This was the best tribute to Memorial Day and I was very touched to read about your Dad and that you wore those pants. My heart is with you. This was another tough day…I know, sweetie.

    Display that flag proudly for a long time. Many of us around here continually display our flags. A form a honor.

    Thanks for this post. Sorry about those damned buttons :o)


  10. susangetsnative
    May 29, 2007 @ 00:03:45

    I thought of my Dad today, too. He was in Korea (after that war, before the Vietnam one), keeping the troops warm in the winter and cool in the summer (that was his area of expertise).
    Hugs to you on a tough day.


  11. laurie
    May 29, 2007 @ 00:35:29

    What a wonderful tribute to Memorial Day, Pam. Truly beautiful. Thank you.

    I’m thinking of you.



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  13. Carolyn H.
    May 29, 2007 @ 15:00:16

    Here in PA, Boalsburg claims to be the first in the nation to commemorate in Memorial Day. Their story is that in 1864, several Civil War widows met coincidentally in the cemetery one morening while decorating the graves of their loved ones. Word spread through the small community and the next year, in 1865, the community got together to decorate the graves of all who were killed in the Civil War. I heard on the news last night that nearly 2 dozen communities, many of them in the south, claim to be the “first” to celebrate Memorial Day. Sometimes good ideas spring from many roots.

    Carolyn H.


  14. Pam
    May 29, 2007 @ 16:17:19

    Cathy – Acute pain is a good way to describe the feeling, for sure. I’ll be glad when it goes away. You’re wearing your Dad’s sweater reminds me that I used to wear my Dad’s letter sweater (he played football) and he graduated from the school I went to. People used to wonder where it came from, I never revealed my secret, but it was one of the best made sweaters around. Nice and warm! I also used to wear his white Navy pants, too. His Navy clothes were so comfortable. Nothing but the best!

    Mary – Thanks, it was tough. Got another tough one coming up as his birthday is/was this week. Then father’s day.
    Oh yeah, I love displaying the American flag, as did my Dad and now my Mom. Believe it or not there’s only four of us in my whole neighborhood that display the flag. Kind of sad, isn’t it!
    Those darned buttons were a pain!

    Susan – that’s an awesome thing for your Dad to do, for sure! Hugs to you, too.

    Laurie – Thank you, I’m thinking of you, too. Hugs to you, too.

    Carolyn H. – thank you for the information! I can imagine people decorated the graves of their loved ones for quite a while before Memorial Day was a public holiday.


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