HAMPSTEAD – The annual Memorial Day observance in Hampstead was led by Lt. Col. Howie Steadman U.S. Air Force (Ret.). Joining Steadman were the Hampstead Central School chorus, under the direction of music teacher Cindi Verrill and Natalie Gallo, and the Rev. Marc Gagne from St. Anne’s Parish.
The event took place at the Hampstead Band Stand at Old Meeting House Park at 11 a.m. Monday, with the earlier rain and threatening skies clearing and a bright, sunny day on tap for the observance.
Steadman recalled Hampstead veterans who had made the ultimate sacrifice, Marine Pfc. Matthew Bertolino and U.S. Army Ranger Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, and all those from Hampstead and their families who have served and are now serving their country. Gallo sang the National Anthem, “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace,” and the chorus sang a medley of patriotic songs.
An award was presented to retiring Hampstead Middle School seventh grade science teacher Kathe Cussen, the founder of the school’s Military Support Club. The Military Support Club began right after the events of 9/11 and has continued without a pause through the end of the current school year. Cussen has sent 900 packages overseas to deployed military friends, and she and the club members have written countless cards and letters over the years to 202 adopted military friends.
An award was also presented to Tri-Town Times reporter Penny Williams for her work keeping patriotism alive in Hampstead. Williams has reported on Hampstead for many years, including numerous Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) events and other patriotic activities in the community and the schools.
Steadman presented a VFW local and district award to Ben Londrigan, runner-up for VFW Scout of the Year at the state level. Nick Maselli represented the VFW District in handing out the District level awards to Londrigan and to Mackenzie Finocchiaro, the local VFW Patriot’s Pen and District winner, who placed fourth at the state level. Steadman said Mackenzie has assured him she is joining the Pinkerton Academy U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in the fall. Her goal is to become a pilot and she has started taking flying lessons.
The Pinkerton Academy ROTC members then laid wreaths at the Korean Memorial Monument and the Civil War monument across the street from Town Hall.