For the first time ever, students at Mamaroneck High School coordinated this year’s Kemper Park Memorial Day ceremony, which took place on Friday, May 30.
Every year since 1946, Kemper Memorial Park has been the location of a Mamaroneck Memorial Day tradition in which veterans have been recognized and honored by students, other veterans and the high school faculty.
This year, two high school students, Leonie Rauls and Kaitlyn Talt, decided to organize and run the annual event.
“The park is dedicated to those students who fought and died in WWII, I thought it would be a good idea for the students to organize this event,” Rauls, a senior, said. “Memorial Day should have a combination of celebrations, but also people should keep in mind the soldiers.”
Veteran Richard Cantor said his grandfather, Adolph Kemper, bought the property in 1945 after World War II ended. He dedicated the park to his late son, Richard Kemper, and many other fallen Mamaroneck High School boys who lost their lives during World War II.
At last Friday’s ceremony, senior class members played instruments while other students sang, and former veterans and residents looked on. The ceremony kicked-off with the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem. The Kemper family was recognized and a flag was then placed at a memorial site at the park by the student body.
The park is steeped in its own history. In the past, there was a protest to protect it.
In the 2000s, the Mamaroneck Board of Education tried to do away with the park by expanding an existing parking lot, according to Cantor. A petition to save the park was initiated and the site was spared due to the efforts of some students and their families.
Cantor said his grandfather wanted future high school students to learn mankind doesn’t always get along.
“Freedom is fragile…Memorial Day in the past was always on May 30. Now, Memorial Day is commercialized as a beach and barbecue celebration,” he said.
Memorial Day was celebrated this year on Monday, May 26.
-Reporting by Molly Stazzone