In 1918, as World War I broke out, the Schaffer brothers, whose family then lived in the Johnson home, made the same vow, adding two more scythes to the tree. Both men made it home and now only Johnson’s scythe remains, along with an American flag.
National coverage always skirts past the mention of Waterloo. I would imagine it is because various other towns lay claim to the holiday, such as residents of Boalsburg, Pa. who say they held the first Decoration Day for Civil War soldiers in 1864. However, the sentiment behind Waterloo’s Memorial Day was that soldiers who gave their lives in any war should be honored.
This year I’m pleased to say the state is finally promoting its connection to the holiday. Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office, a virtual Memorial Day exhibit has been created using archives from the New York State Library and National Memorial Day Museum in Waterloo
The site is filled with pictures and official documents, including the program from a Memorial and Decoration Day event held at Albany Rural Cemetery in 1883. To view the exhibit online, visit www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov.
Today, I’m proud to be from Waterloo, a community that felt it was important to honor all of its veterans. And I make it a point to return each year to take part in the festivities we’re semi-famous for.