This year, Marcia Beagan will serve as Grand Marshal of the annual Memorial Day Parade, which will start at 9:15 a.m. next Monday. An enthusiastic fan of the celebration for almost 40 years, Beagan is honored to lead this year’s celebration. Here is what she had to say about her role in Monday’s tradition:
“I am thrilled and humbled to be selected Grand Marshal of this parade. Attending parades and standing on the sidelines, waving my flag in support of each group and marching in place along with drum cadences is a most exciting feeling. Pride is the word of the day; so much pride for those who have gone before us and sacrificed so much of themselves and for those currently serving for our country’s protection and liberty.
“Sometimes I wonder if my patriotism and love of America began on my birth date of July 3 – the same as George M. Cohan, also born in Providence, R.I. When George was of age, his goal was to join the service, fight for his country. But he was rejected from joining. Not for health reasons, but because he was not tall enough. Though devastated, he vowed to help in another way. He began writing songs of love and support for the troops away and all of those waiting their return at home. His music was written to bolster and support the human spirit, songs such as ‘Give My Regards To Broadway,’ and ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag.’
“During my 30 years of teaching music in Warwick elementary schools, I had a lot of opportunities to teach patriotic music and the stories behind the songs that inspire the composers. I love knowing every verse of a song, not just the first verse, and of course a favorite would be the history behind Francis Scott Key writing down exactly what was happening to him when he found himself a prisoner on a British ship in 1814 off the coast of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Singing all three verses of our national anthem gives you the whole story.
“I have very fond memories of helping to organize and march in two elementary school parades during my teaching years. The Bicentennial, 1976, Greenwood School children dressed in Colonial costumes and with the help of Winman Junior High fife and drums, we marched around the neighborhood, singing patriotic songs as we went along.
“Some years later at Oakland Beach School, during Reading Week, all the children dressed as their favorite book characters and, along with Gorton Junior High’s marching band, marched around the Oakland Beach neighborhood.
“I still meet some of those children now grown up and reminding me of those memorable events.
“Parades bring out the best in people. All ages can and do enjoy them and the pageantry and spirit they show in their music, their marching, their exuberance, their desire to entertain all who see them pass.
“An absolute highlighted moment for me at the Warwick Memorial Day or Gaspee Day Parade is watching for Pilgrim High School’s band to approach. It is them I edge myself into the street a bit for so that its director, Chris Pratt, who was an elementary student of mine in the late ’70s, sees me and immediately gives the whistle to begin playing – to be certain they are playing as they pass by me. Boy, do I feel special when that happens.
“Warwick is my city. I have been an educator here for 50 years now, beginning in 1964 and retiring 15 years ago, but staying musically active as music director at St. Rita Church, pianist for the Bishop Hendricken Young Men’s Chorus and as a pianist for choral groups around the state.
“I wish to sincerely thank the Memorial Day Parade Committee for this honor and will treasure each moment of it with happiness and humility.”