Home > Holidays & Special Events > Memorial Day

Memorial Day
"Peat Moss and Geraniums"


Related links:

Memorial Day Slide Show

Dave Komarnicki's recollections of Memorial Day

St. Hedwig's Church

Szymanski-Rywacki American Legion Post 546

Immaculate Heart of Mary Cemetery


Peat Moss and Geraniums: 

My first real memories of Memorial Day came after WWII. It seemed that all the men in our family were away fighting the War. They were not the heroes we read of, they were not the entertainers that got headlines in our local papers. They were fathers, sons, sons-in-law, brothers, cousins and our daughters. One was my father, they called him “Pop” he was 35-- most were years younger. They were my Uncles, Mike (Marines), Pete (Army), Myron (Air Force), Eddy (Navy) Bob (Navy), and Uncle Joe (Merchant Marines) they were my Mom’s cousins Nicky, Willy, Henry, Pete, Walter, and Olga. They were husbands leaving behind their families or young men and women who should have been home enjoying their youth. Through the Grace of God, every one from our family came home other families were not as lucky. 

So began our tradition of the Peat Moss and Geraniums. 
My sister and I would pull the wagon up Booth Street and pick the nicest Pink and Red Geraniums from the hot house. This would be the days just before Memorial Day. Before the Veterans from VFW Szymanski-Rywacki Post 546. would march to the gravesides of our fallen warriors. 

Making the cemetery a place of beauty for those that had gone before us was not unusual; it was a way of remembering. But now it was a time where we would Plant Geraniums to show our appreciation.
Years ago you could decorate the entire grave plot. My parents put the peat down in the shape of the grave piled high and then planted flowers from the head to the bottom and then on either side in the shape of the Cross. Early the morning of Memorial Day/Declaration Day we would collect fresh flowers from the gardens and make fresh cuttings to place at he head of the Tombstones.

We did not go to the Church Service that is held at St. Hedwigs the morning of Memorial Day we would go to the cemetery to make sure it was freshly cut, and flowered. Just about the time we would finish adorning the graves of our loved ones, the parade at the Cemetery would begin. This is at Immaculate Heart Cemetery and it seems everyone from the neighborhood would come to honor and remember the Soldiers we all knew.. The real Heroes of the War. 

Flags are placed early on the graves of all veterans. We place our own flags on those that were in the Merchant Marines during the War and not recognized for their courage. It is a beautiful site the flags waving across the cemetery in any direction that you look. There are Red Geraniums at the white military headstones in the Veterans Circle. For years the Red Geraniums were bought and planted at each stone by a member of the VFW posts, a mother that lost her son --in his memory..

The Priest will pray for our fallen heroes, they are remembered with love for their courage, there will be songs sung and wreaths laid at the Memorials and then the taps will be played. It is a moving Time – a time when many of us remember Taps being played for someone in our family. For me it reminds us of the Taps played for my Dad 42 years ago. The Flag from his coffin that the Honor Guard gave Mom now has a place of honor with my brother. . 

As the years passed, the crowds grew fewer. The Veterans grew older as did the people that came. Last year we took my Mother for the last time to continue our Tradition of 50 years now . This year we will go again, a bit saddened, but happy because last year more people were at the service than had been for many years and Mom was able to see many of the old neighborhood people. She was able to make sure Dad's military stone was cleaned and his flag flew unobstructed in the slight wind that was blowing. We missed Mr. Kawalchuck, , Mary Novak and Mrs. Novelleta. Mrs. Tomaski and so many others that were not there.  It was good seeing faces like Andy Melinchuck and Joe Twardowski, and Mrs. Mika again. 

I don’t know all the members that participate. But we are all there for one purpose; to celebrate the life that was given up much too early on lands far from their homes. We are there to honor the ones who no longer have family to pray near their final resting place on this day. We are there to remember, that they went so that we would never have to go again. And we go because our heroes gave the supreme gift to us all …their lives… that we could enjoy the freedoms our Flag stood for. 

We go to THANK them and hope our being there will remind others that we cannot forget and should not forget.

THEY are the HEROEs…

The flag they fought for is waving a salute to them over their graves and saying:
“Be at Peace pal your job was well done, Thank you”

This is the schedule for this year's service (2002) as reported in the Delco Times.

Members of the Szymanski-Rywacki American Legion Post 546 will meet 8:15 a.m. Monday at the post home. At 8:45 a.m. they will march with color guard, firing squad, legion and auxiliary members to St. Hedwig's Church for a memorial Mass celebrated by the Rev. Mark Copatz. After Mass the parade will proceed to Immaculate Heart Cemetery for commemorative services at Veterans' Circle and Szymanski grave site. They will then proceed to Felton Firehouse for a memorial service for the Veterans of the West End of Chester. All are invited

To all of the members - Thank you for all the years you have remembered.


If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

© 2002 John A. Bullock III.

GDPub2.JPG (7902 bytes)

This page last updated 04/20/10