Montezuma Historical SocietyMontezuma Historical Society

Memorial Day Remembrance


Memorial DayMemorial Day honors the men and women who died while answering the call of duty in the U.S. Military. The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day in the years after the Civil War, and became a national holiday in 1971.

In 1885, a druggist in Waterloo wanted to honor the soldiers who died preserving the union and ran the idea by members of the community. After planning and consideration, the community came together to honor Memorial Day with a ceremony held in the village of Waterloo in 1866. In 1966, Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller and the U.S. Congress recognized Waterloo for starting the tradition of celebrating fallen service members. This weekend Waterloo, NY, celebrates the Sesquicentennial 150th Anniversary of the sacred commemoration of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day continues to serve as a powerful reminder that freedom is not free, but paid for with courage, valor and sacrifice. Locally, many have served our country in times of war. Recently, Kathy Rose Okun, a former classmate who I grew up with in Montezuma shares memories of times spent with her father at their home at Stop 69 as he remembered his experiences during World War II.


TiltonRoseTilton E. Rose, Jr. was born in 1927, in Marion, New York. At the outbreak of the WWII he followed an urgent internal call at age seventeen to enlist in the United States Navy in 1944. By June of that same year he found himself on ship, the LST 389, headed for the shores of Normandy on what became one of the greatest military operations of the WWII era.

Kathy shares her bitter sweet memories here and reminds us never to forget what has been given for our freedom.  May we continue to work towards peace and pray that young men like Tillie will someday never have to see these kinds of atrocities again, nor children have to lose a parent or ever have to hear these kinds of stories.

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In my seventieth year, I find myself looking back more often than looking forward. My youth and time spent with my father are prominent in my thoughts, and as Memorial Day approaches certain memories are quite vivid.

As a child some of my favorite times were spent in the living room of our house by the Barge Canal watching Navy Log and Victory at Sea on the old Sears and Roebuck, black and white TV.  During the programs Dad said little, he was a quiet man anyway, but at those times, to a greater extent. There he would sit, in his chair, with his requisite cup of coffee and his unfiltered,Camel cigarette (did WWII sailors smoke anything else??). The silence would be occasionally broken by an excited, “There she is!” There she is!”, as he saw his ship on film. He would sit forward in his chair then, eyes bright, a look of pride and sad remembrance on his face.

As a child I didn’t understand his combined emotions. When I was older I came to understand, because he shared with his IMG_0641 (2)older daughter what he would not when she was younger. He told me about the horrors of battle, of a sea filled with the vomit and blood of fear and death, of the loss of comrades in arms, of the dread and sweat combining to tear at the soul, and of the steely resolve to do your job no matter the cost.

Dad was seventeen when he joined the United States Navy, finishing his training in time to join other young men in the D-Day Invasion. He ‘fudged’ his birthdate so he could serve. A young farm boy wanting to do his part in what would be the greatest amphibious attack in history.

IMG_0641So here I sit, all these years later, in my chair, with my requisite cup of coffee(sans Camel), looking at his Navy portrait and thanking him for what he, and others did for us all. I also thank him for teaching me about the abomination of war and about the appreciation of the life’s simple things. It was for those simple things that he went to fight. It was not for glory, not for greed, not for a political agenda, but so our lives could be lived with freedom and hope and not with despair.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.

Kathy C. Okun nee Rose

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Following the war Tillie and his young family lived in Victory, NY — Kathy thinking it a befitting township name for her father, a brave man who was part of successfully saving our country’s freedom. Later, they lived on Howland’s Island farming before moving to Stop 69. He was a member of the Thurston, Schram, Reynolds VFW Post 8137 in Montezuma. He passed away in 2002, survived by his wife, June and daughter, Kathy.

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