Patriotism, history on display at 4th of July ceremony

The red, white and blue was held proudly last Friday when the Fourth of July was celebrated at the annual Independence Day Association of Greenwich event. Former Selectman Peter Crumbine and former U.S. Ambassador Charles Glazer were just some of the people there eager to show their patriotic spirit with flags flying. – John Ferris Robben

The red, white and blue was held proudly last Friday when the Fourth of July was celebrated at the annual Independence Day Association of Greenwich event. Former Selectman Peter Crumbine and former U.S. Ambassador Charles Glazer were just some of the people there eager to show their patriotic spirit with flags flying. – John Ferris Robben

The rain forced the festivities indoors but couldn’t damper the patriotic spirit on display at Independence Day Association of Greenwich’s annual Fourth of July ceremony.

While the feared rain showers never materialized, event organizers thought it best not to take the chance and moved the ceremony inside Town Hall for the first time. And while this is traditionally an outdoor event, not a beat was missed in putting on the show, which included patriotic songs, a parade of the flags of the 13 original colonies and a display of a large Betsy Ross-style flag with the 13 stars on it that nearly took up the entire width of the Town Hall Meeting Room as close to 200 packed inside for the event.

“E pluribus unum, out of many one, was the motto chosen by our founding fathers to demonstrate our original 13 colonies and how they had coalesced together to form a nation,” Christopher Hughes, a Marine veteran and commander of the American Legion Post 29 in Greenwich, said in his role as the master of ceremonies. “Together they formed a nation and a government of the people, by the people and for the people… For the last 238 years a banner of cloth bearing three colors and four shapes has become known around the world as a symbol for liberty, fairness, hope, strength and leadership. The colors are, of course, red, white and blue, and the shapes, a rectangular field of blue, an everlasting star and the everlasting stripes, come together to form the flag of the United States of America.”

Bea Crumbine served as co-chairman with Janet Giusti of the association again and was praised by Mr. Hughes as “Someone whose dedication to preserving our history is equaled only by her passion for sharing that history with her fellow residents and especially the younger generations of our community… It’s her vision and her persistence that makes this event possible every single year.”

Mr. Hughes also noted that Ms. Crumbine has a huge task ahead of her since next year will be the 375th commemoration of the town’s founding, a project she and other volunteers have taken on. But the ceremony was about Independence Day in Greenwich, an event for which Ms. Crumbine always dresses in colonial garb, said she loved to mark even with the festivities forced indoors.

“I think this proves that we are incredibly resilient as well as patriotic,” Ms. Crumbine said, addressing the packed crowd. “In all the 10 years we’ve done the ceremony we’ve been outdoors and it works thanks to all of you coming. Thanks to all of you for believing this was going to go on anyway despite the weather.”

The guests for the event included First Selectman Peter Tesei, Selectman David Theis, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) and State Reps. Stephen Walko (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st). Former Ambassadors Charles Glazer and Joseph Vernor Reed were also in attendance as was Chief of Police James Heavey. Representatives of Greenwich’s seven founding families were also on hand.

Mr. Tesei shared some facts about the American flag, including that it is the oldest of the national standards around the world, predating even Great Britain’s “Union Jack” and France’s tricolor, as it was first flown in 1777.

“The red in the flag is for valor, zeal and fervency,” Mr. Tesei said. “The white for hope, purity, cleanliness of life and rectitude of conduct. The blue is for the color of heaven for reverence to God, loyalty, sincerity, justice and truth. The star symbolized dominion and sovereignty as well as lofty aspirations.”

Mr. Tesei thanked everyone who had put the ceremony together.

“They have provided citizens with an opportunity to come and celebrate the virtues of our nation, our patriotism and, especially, to show young people what America is truly all about,” Mr. Tesei said.

The event was dedicated to the memory of Malcolm Pray, who died last year and was noted for his longtime support of Greenwich community groups, including the Independence Day Association. The Betsy Ross flag that was displayed was purchased by Mr. Pray and he equipped the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich’s Honor Guard, which took part in the ceremony by showing off the flag.

“Today we celebrate the spirit and the memory of a dedicated patriot,” Ms. Crumbine said. “Malcolm understood that today is all about the children of Greenwich. I can’t believe that it was 10 years ago that a group of volunteers gathered to enhance the memory of the Fourth of July, realizing that for Greenwich children it had to be more than fireworks and maybe a parade and barbecues and picnics.”

Mr. Pray’s widow, Natalie, was there for the ceremony as was his daughter, Sabrina. Music was provided by Stefanie Keys, the mother of an Army veteran just returned home, and the Sound Beach Community Band. Ed Dadakis, a columnist for the Post, not only provided 300 American flags for the event but 1,400 more for future events. The Greenwich Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts took part in the ceremony as did the Children of the American Revolution and the names of Greenwich residents killed in the American Revolution were read aloud.

In keeping with past ceremonies, students from Greenwich’s public and private schools were given Good Citizen Awards and there was a history lesson as well. Greenwich High School teacher Mike Galatioto spoke about the history of World War I, even though Ms. Crumbine joked that he only had three minutes to talk about the entire war. This year is the 100th anniversary of what was known as “the Great War” that exploded in Europe, ultimately involving more than 100 countries across five continents and claiming 60 million lives.

“When our young boys were fighting in the Great War, they too were fighting to uphold and protect the ideals upon which our country was founded,” Mr. Galatioto said. “If you take a stroll through Town Hall you will notice a plaque in front of the elevator that includes the name of 28 Greenwich boys who gave their lives for their country and their town in the first World War. These boys accomplished a great deal for Greenwich and for America as a whole.”

As Mr. Galatioto talked about the revolutionary changes this event created for women and minorities, he also discussed a post-war party on July 4, 1919 at the armory on Mason Street that went on through the night.

“Each veteran was given a large bronze medal,” Mr. Galatioto said. “But at the end of the night one of the veterans was interviewed and he stated, ‘Although I am grateful for the celebration in our honor, tomorrow I will wake up faced with the reality that our lives will never again be the same.’ Truer words can not be spoken. An entire generation of boys was lost to the world and this was felt in Greenwich as it was felt throughout the world.”

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