Metro-East News

Things to do: Memorial Day weekend is more than beer and brats

Mary Cooley
Mary Cooley

Victor Francis was already an old man in my earliest memories. Soft-spoken around easily intimidated small children like me, he was a man who took joy in following his hound dogs or otherwise being off somewhere in the woods.

Cousin Vic and his sister were in World War II, he somewhere in Europe and she in Hawaii. The only thing he ever said about it was, “France was a really pretty country.” When pressed, “Italy too. But France was really beautiful.”

Years later, his obituary had a long list of battles the Army corporal had survived and the medals he had earned. For our own beautiful country, this weekend we remember all those who did not return to tell us of far-off lands.

Memorial Day in Belleville

Area veterans are encouraged to walk in the Belleville Memorial Day parade, starting at 10 a.m. Monday, even if they aren’t already associated with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Catholic War Veterans or any of the other organizations marching in the annual parade.

“If they can’t walk, we’ll put them on a float and they can ride along,” said Tammy Hickey of the American Legion. Anyone interested in joining the parade should arrive about 9 a.m. Monday near Cathedral School on Second Street and West Main. The parade route goes a mile and a half from Cathedral Grade School, north on Second Street, east on Main street, then turns south onto Mascoutah Avenue until reaching Walnut Hill Cemetery.

The TRANSCOM color guard from Scott Air Force Base will lead the flag-raising at the cemetery, and various veterans groups will read the names of those who have passed on this last year. The guest speaker is Col. Michael Benjamin, the Staff Judge Advocate, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, United States Transportation Command, on Scott Air Force Base.

In addition to all the veterans and military groups in the parade, expect to see Captain America, members of the Metro East Car Association, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, historic cars and historic military vehicles.

Memorial Day in Hecker

St. Augustine’s Cemetery, at 310 N. Main Street in Hecker, hosts the annual Memorial Day observances at 10 a.m. Monday. They’ll have speakers, live music, recognition of the living veterans and a flyover to honor the dead. In case of rain, observances move to the Hecker Community Center, 230 E. Washington St.

Memorial Day Masses

▪  9 a.m. Monday at Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery, 10101 W. Main St., Belleville

▪  11 a.m. Monday at Holy Cross Cemetery, 9409 Holy Cross Road, Fairview Heights

Sail like Columbus

The Nina and Pinta are again in Grafton this weekend and will sail away on June 6. Admission to the astonishingly small ships that carried dozens to the New World is $8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 for students aged 5 to 16, and free for children 4 and under. The modern-day sailors who crew the ships know every detail of the replica ships and their histories, and all they ask is that you don’t go below deck, because that’s living quarters. Board the ships at The Loading Dock at 401 Front St. in Grafton. Call 787-672-2152 or email for more information.

Eat well

▪  The Italian-American Days Festival starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday and noon Monday at the Benld City Park in Benld. Carnival rides, music by All Mixed Up Band on Saturday and Agent 99 and more on Sunday. Enjoy one ton of free spaghetti from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday; or buy Italian specialties like such as salami sandwiches, bagna cauda and spumoni and more any time. Bingo at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at noon on Monday.

They’re ready for rain, too. Find them on Facebook under Benld Italian-American Days.

▪  Greek Fest lets non-Greeks in to experience “the Greek Community’s deeply rooted traditions and heritage” from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church at 1755 Des Peres Road in Town and Country, Mo. They’ll have Greek music and dancers, a gift shop, church tours and a children’s area. Plus, food: lamb shank, moussaka, spanakopita, souvlaki, pastitsio, dolmathes and more. Children’s plates offer chicken strips and french fries, but here’s hoping the kids are ready for gyros and tiropitas. Find out more – including a full menu and the music lineup – at