Olympic Region remembers service members

Harold Trantham, left, accepts a flag from Stuart Spotts flown in memory of his mother, Betty Jean Trantham, during a Memorial Day ceremony in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

LAKE PLACID — Memorial Day was recognized around the Tri-Lakes region on Monday, May 27. Despite sporadic rain showers and strong winds, a small crowd gathered outside American Legion Post 326 in Lake Placid on Monday morning for a Memorial Day ceremony.

Following a parade down Main Street that featured veterans, first responders, local Girl Scout troops and the Lake Placid Middle/High School marching band, American Legion members lowered three flags that have flown since Veterans Day in memory of local veterans who have died and raised three new flags in other veterans’ memories.

Flags honoring William “Bill” Kelly, James Staats and Betty Jean Trantham were lowered.

Kelly died in June 2023 at 95 years old. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1945 and served with the Army Corps of Engineers, where he was stationed in Austria, until 1948. He was recalled to serve in the Korean War a few years later and was discharged after 10 months. His flag was accepted by friend Richard Smith, who is also a veteran.

Staats died in 2023 at 54 years old. He was born in 1968 in Lake Placid and served in the U.S. Navy for 27 years, retiring as a Gunner’s Mate, first class. His flag was accepted by his sisters, Lori Staats Martin and Lisa Staats Lawyer.

Stuart Spotts, left, and Bob Marvin fold one of the flags at the American Legion Post 326 home on Main Street, Lake Placid, Monday, May 27, during the Memorial Day ceremony. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

Trantham died in January 2023 at 72 years old. She was born in Lake Placid in 1950 and at the time of her death was a mother of two, grandmother of four and great-grandmother of 11. Her flag was accepted by her son, Harold Trantham.

Lake Placid High School 11th grader Aidan Fay played “Taps” after all the flags were lowered. American Legion members Stuart Spotts and Bob Marvin then raised flags honoring Robert Peacock, Douglas Bissonette and Alfred Von Dell. The flags will fly outside the American Legion until Veterans Day.

Peacock died in November 2023 at 79 years old. He was born in Lake Placid in 1944, excelled at sports in high school and, following graduation, served in the Army, stationed in Korea. He enjoyed playing golf, driving his old car and going to garage sales — even meeting his wife, MarieLine Desilets, at a flea market in 2003. He’s survived by an extended family of siblings, nieces and nephews and in-laws.

Bissonette died in March 2016 at 73 years old. Born in Malone in 1942, Bissonette served in the Army from 1964 to 1970 and later worked as a state Department of Environmental Conservation forest ranger. He married Debbie Cobane in 1967 and they raised four sons together.

Von Dell died in 1997 at age 87. He married Phyllis Salem in 1931 and they raised seven children together in Lake Placid.

From left, Lisa Staats Lawyer and Lori Staats Martin accept a flag from Stuart Spotts flown in memory of their brother, James Staats, during a Memorial Day ceremony in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

Sean and Mollie Fitzgerald then laid a wreath at the American Legion’s memorial, and the Lake Placid Middle/High School marching band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Earlier in the day, American Legion members began Memorial Day by lowering a flag honoring Roland White and raising a flag honoring Robert Fadden at the Adirondack Community Church.

White died in August at 90 years old. He was born in 1933 in Lake Placid and served during the Korean War. Fadden died in May 2011 and served in the Army during World War II. He married Dorris Fadden in 1943 and was a father of two, grandfather of three and great-grandfather of one at the time of his death.

American Legion members then proceeded to Elderwood of Uihlein, where they lowered a flag honoring Henry “Hank” Trombley and raised a flag honoring Dennis Smythe.

Trombley died in June 2021 at 89 years old. He was born in Plattsburgh in 1932 and served in the Air Force during the Korean War as a surgical medic. Smythe died in December 2013 at 62 years old. He was born in Lake Placid in 1951 and graduated from Lake Placid High School in 1969. He enlisted in the Army in 1971 and served for five years, then returned to Lake Placid, where he worked for village police. Smythe loved sports and fishing.

Lake Placid High School student Aidan Fay plays taps at a Memorial Day ceremony in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

American Legion members then moved to the Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center to lower a flag honoring John Peters and raise a flag honoring Clifford “Kip” Wells.

Peters was a veteran of the Army. A transplant to Lake Placid, he loved to spend time at the ski jumps and volunteer around town. Wells died in December 2020 at 87 years old. He was born in Saranac Lake in 1933 and served in the Army in Germany and as an MP during the Korean War. After his discharge from the Army, he worked as a chef at Placid Memorial Hospital and the Lake Placid Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. Wells married Greta Maynard in 1956 in Lake Placid and was a father of one, grandfather of three and great-grandfather of eight at the time of his death.


Richard Smith, left, shakes hands with Stuart Spotts after accepting a flag flown in memory of Smith’s friend, Bill Kelly, during a Memorial Day ceremony in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

The annual Memorial Day ceremony conducted by Marcy Post 1312 of the American Legion was held on May 27 at the Veterans Memorial Site on Norton Cemetery Road in Keene at 10 a.m.. There was an honor guard, firing squad, patriotic music by Amy and Pete Nelson and the playing of “Echo Taps.” Names of all the Keene residents who served since the Revolutionary War were also read during the ceremony.

Tupper Lake

Shane Holmes, of Long Lake, used his Memorial Day speech in Tupper Lake to talk about three of his heroes — three men he thinks about at this time every year.

Members of the Lake Placid Middle/High School marching band play “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the Memorial Day ceremony at the American Legion Post 326 home in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

Holmes, a combat veteran who served in the Marine Corps and Army National Guard, including one tour in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, said Memorial Day is known to many as a long weekend with cookouts and gatherings. But for him and the many people like him who have lost loved ones to war, Memorial Day holds a “profound, deeply meaningful significance.”

It’s a time to pause the daily routine to pay tribute, he said.

He got emotional as he remembered a few of the soldiers he was closest to who died in the line of duty.

The first was his cousin, Marine Lance Corporal Nicholas Sovie.

Sovie died in the Horn of Africa on Feb. 17, 2006 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“His dedication and sacrifice serve as a heartful reminder of the price of freedom,” Holmes said.

The second was Maj. Michael S. Evarts, a college roommate, ROTC peer and close friend of Holmes’. He died in Tikrit Iraq on Jan. 17, 2011 during Operation New Dawn.

“His leadership, his courage, his unwavering commitment to this country are qualities I always hold dear,” Holmes said.

The last was Army Sgt. Michael Uvanni, with whom Holmes shared a “unique bond” as they trained and deployed to Iraq. The two shared a path of being former Marines who joined the Army National Guard to volunteer to fight in Iraq. Uvanni died in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 1, 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“His selflessness and bravery continue to inspire me,” Holmes said.

He feels that he owes it to each one of them to remember their stories and keep their memories alive. He felt honored to do so on Monday.

“These are not just names on some memorial wall, nor faces in photographs,” Holmes said. “They are my brothers, they are my friends and they are heroes.”

Holmes shared a tearful hug with family while the packed high school auditorium gave his speech a standing ovation.

It was a tough speech to give, he said later. It was hard to speak about his fallen family and friends without crying through the speech, he said, so he focused on their memories.

Though he only gave brief descriptions of who they were, he said they each had dreams, hopes and families.

“As much as I wanted to talk forever about them, it would have been tough for me — as you can tell, just mentioning their names was very emotional for me,” Holmes said.

He knew a lot more people who died overseas who he was also thinking about, but he wanted to focus on these three because they each had an impact on his life today.

Holmes is the event and education coordinator for Homeward Bound, organizing nature retreats with veterans twice a month, where they take to the woods and talk around the campfire about their shared trauma and afflictions.

It is important work to him. Holmes said he suffers from PTSD and that talking with people with the same trauma is therapeutic.

“I get more out of helping other veterans than any type of medication or therapy that I’ve ever done in the past,” he said. “It’s a reciprocal thing.”

In the five years he’s been doing this, he’s only missed one retreat.

Saranac Lake

Saranac Lake’s windy Memorial Day festivities kicked off with the annual parade down Broadway and Main Street, featuring local veterans and veterans organizations, firefighters, the Saranac Lake High School band, Saranac Lake village Mayor Jimmy Williams, the Saranac Lake Youth Baseball and Softball Association and an escort by Saranac Lake police.

The parade ended at Riverside Park, where Saranac Lake VFW Post 3357 Commander and American Legion member Joseph Fisher led the Memorial Day ceremony.

The ceremony included a rendition of the National Anthem by the Saranac Lake High School band, led by Keith Kogut; a benediction by VFW Post 3357 Chaplain Jimmy Law; a wreath-laying by Nancy Hurteau of the American Legion Post 447 Auxiliary and Cheri Fisher of the VFW Auxiliary of Post 3357; and the playing of taps. After the ceremony, there was a barbecue at the Veteran’s Club.

Fisher, a Bloomingdale resident, veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and retired New York Army National Guard sergeant major, spoke about the history behind Memorial Day and the sacrifice made by service members.

“We have joined together this Memorial Day for the opportunity to celebrate and honor the men and women of our military who died while protecting our nation,” Fisher told the crowd of roughly 200 people. “As we take this day to give thanks to them and quietly contemplate their ultimate sacrifice, we realize how markedly inadequate our attempt to pay tribute to them really is. There are no words that can properly reflect the magnitude of what their sacrifices meant to our nation and the amount of love, respect and honor that we hold deep in our hearts for them.

“Our intent today is not to speak on the glory of battle, or pay homage to heroes or icons, but rather to reflect on the person behind the deed and remember all of our fallen comrades for who they actually were — people just like us,” he added. “They were fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters and friends, all of whom held true to the values upon which this great land was founded and shared a common belief in freedom, justice and liberty.”

Fisher said it is everyone’s duty to keep their memories alive and to reflect on the lives left behind.

“The next door neighbors and the kids who lived just down the block,” Fisher said. “They were the high school quarterbacks, the cheerleaders, the class clowns. Some of them were teachers, police, firefighters, plumbers and physicians. They were of every race, creed and color. They came from every corner of our great nation, and from other countries, as well. Together, they defended, protected and advanced the cause of freedom.”

Fisher noted that the men and women being honored on Memorial Day “did not choose the events of the world and the circumstances into which they were thrust.”

“The circumstances and the events of the world chose them,” he said. “It is a fact of life that freedom is not free. Throughout our nation’s history, there have been heavy costs involved in preserving our way of life. As a nation, we have shouldered the cost.”

Fisher implored the crowd to ensure that the legacy of fallen soldiers is passed on to younger generations.

“Let us leave here today knowing that our destiny as a free people is entirely up to us,” he said.

Sean and Mollie Fitzgerald lay a wreath outside of American Legion post 326 in Lake Placid on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

Local Girl Scout troops march in the Lake Placid Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 27. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

During the town of Keene’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 27, Karen Glass, third from left, was joined by her son, Sgt. 1st Class Charlie Glass, a medical platoon sergeant for the First Battalion for the 258 Field Artillery, National Guard, his wife Captain Dorothy Chiaravalle, now in MedCom, but deployed last year with the 69th Infantry, and their children. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Pete and Amy Nelson sang patriotic songs during the town of Keene’s Memorial Day ceremony. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

The Honor Guard at the Keene Memorial Day ceremony consisted of Donald Smith, Dean Smith and Lance Mclaire. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

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