Royal Oak’s 100th Memorial Day observance draws crowd

By: Jonathan Shead | Royal Oak Review | Published June 8, 2021

 Royal Oak Memorial Day parade Grand Marshal Clifford Alvira, 96, of Royal Oak, is assisted into a 2021 Chevrolet Corvette by the car’s owner, Bill Murchinson, of Royal Oak, May 31.

Royal Oak Memorial Day parade Grand Marshal Clifford Alvira, 96, of Royal Oak, is assisted into a 2021 Chevrolet Corvette by the car’s owner, Bill Murchinson, of Royal Oak, May 31.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Marla James and veteran James Rickard, of Royal Oak, watch the Memorial Day parade in downtown Royal Oak May 31.

Marla James and veteran James Rickard, of Royal Oak, watch the Memorial Day parade in downtown Royal Oak May 31.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROYAL OAK — On May 31, people lined Main Street to watch the city of Royal Oak’s Memorial Day parade, which preceded a ceremony in the parking lot of the new City Hall.

Attendees exuded a strong sense of patriotism, donning red, white and blue clothing and waving American flags.

The city canceled its Memorial Day events last year due to the pandemic.

This year, 96-year-old Royal Oak resident and World War II veteran Clifford Alvira served as the parade’s grand marshal. Alvira, who served in the Navy, helped land soldiers on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, the date known as D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history.

During the ceremony, Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier read a proclamation recognizing Alvira as grand marshal, and the Royal Oak Police Department’s Honor Guard folded and presented him with an American flag.

Parade participants included original World War II Rosie the Riveters seated on a float, an American Rosie the Riveter Association drill team, the Daughters of the American Revolution, a five-horse parade brigade from Camp Casey and the 338th Army Reserve Band, as well as flyovers by the Tuskegee Airmen out of Willow Run Airport, near Ypsilanti.

David Paruch, a federal immigration judge and Royal Oak resident, watched the procession while holding the burial flag presented to his mother at his father’s funeral. His father, Henry John Paruch, was leading a three-plane flight over a northern Indiana cornfield in September of 1952 when it hit heavy weather.

“His plane didn’t make it,” said Paruch, who was 4 years old at the time of the crash.

Paruch was drafted in 1971 and served in Korea before attending law school and ultimately becoming a judge. He said his father had a positive impact on his life.

John Williams, of the Frank Wendland American Legion Post 253, stressed the importance of remembering the men and women who gave their lives in service to the country.

He said he had 30 shipmates who gave their lives in wartime and peacetime, including 20 who were killed in a gun turret explosion on a ship off Vietnam that was providing naval gunfire support for ground troops.

“The 188 names (listed on the Royal Oak veterans memorial) are up there on the windows (of City Hall),” Williams said.

The names appeared as decals on the rear windows of the building.

He was among members from the post who rounded out the ceremony with a rifle salute.

“Those that are gone created a clear pathway for us to continue on. We must never waver from that path of freedom and democracy,” Post 346 Chaplain Dale Baxter said in his invocation. “Take their memories and carry it high and proud. They did, and now you must walk forward for them and for our children.”

Fournier expressed gratitude for the sacrifice of those who died in uniform.

“(We are) forever in their debt — a debt we can pay back each day by living up to the ideals of what America is and what it can be,” he said. “We pay this debt by rising above the trappings of our divisive culture. … We owe it to them to be an America of civility and decency worthy of their sacrifice.”

Kate Melcher, executive director of Fisher House and an Army veteran, was the guest speaker.

“We know that all gave some, we know that some gave all, and we’re here because we want to pause and remember those and remember to give back,” Melcher said. “To the fallen, may your memory be a blessing. And to the living, may you have a meaningful Memorial Day.”