Local veterans celebrate the holiday at Memorial Hall

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Fri., Dec. 23, 2011
Veterans and their spouses gathered at Memorial Hall for a holiday meal Dec. 17. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.
Veterans and their spouses gathered at Memorial Hall for a holiday meal Dec. 17. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.

A light shines in the window of Memorial Hall every night, to welcome returning soldiers back home - as it has for generations. But on Saturday, Dec. 17, the hall was lit inside and out with festive merry-makers celebrating Christmas. The holiday meal for American Legion Post of Windsor Locks members and spouses was a full ham steak dinner, complete with mashed potatoes and vegetables, as well as dessert.

Rose Kone, the chaplain and the person who made the event happen again this year, served the cake after working hard all day, said Jerry Kulas, the post commander.

Others worked hard behind the scenes as well, including Ed Sabotka and others who spent weeks arranging the dinner, decorating the hall and tables, gathering gifts to raffle, collecting bags of food for the food bank and homeless shelter, and organizing the special 50/50 drawing, to help benefit ongoing activities at Memorial Hall.

Dorothy Kilty, whose husband Michael served in the U.S. Navy, was happy to have her granddaughter Jenny meet Santa Claus. Rita Fredette and George Briere said they come every year. Lou Latorra, an Army veteran, was there celebrating the holiday along with Albert LaGrange and former Marine Clif Church and his wife Joyce, who said they come every year and would not think of missing the event. Ruth and John Eckerd, Joan Morin, Doris Stevensen and Ed and Jane Sabotka make it a tradition, as well.

Jerry Hayes said that Memorial Hall is unique and lucky because a trust was initially established when the hall was built that assures continuity. Many other towns are seeing their veterans halls shut down, while Windsor Locks is thriving, said Hayes. That is largely due to the board of trustees, as well as well-attended activities. Both the main dining room and lounge areas were packed with diners in festive spirits.

After dinner, guests sang Christmas carols, anticipated winning the raffles, and speculated with Santa about who was naughty and nice. Reading a special soldier’s version of “The Night Before Christmas,” written by Lt. Commander James Schmidt, is also an annual tradition, said Hayes.

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