Severna Park to honor veteran in July Fourth parade

July 02, 2006|By JONI GUHNE | JONI GUHNE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Maurice Downing Meyers hasn't been around as long as the community of Severna Park, but he nearly has.

So it seemed only fitting to organizers of Severna Park's centennial celebration to tap Meyers, a 97-year-old veteran and longtime area resident, to be the grand marshal of its Fourth of July parade and festival.

"We're very fortunate with our grand marshal, whose family roots go back many, many years in the area," said parade chairman Ted Mathison, a resident of Shipley's Choice since 1979.

"It's an honor to be able to honor him," added Mathison, "for community and military service.

Meyers, who lives independently in his house, said Friday night that he was surprised by the invitation to be grand marshal. But, he added, "I'm very glad to do it."

"I have a fancy hat and shirt" for the parade, said Meyers, who plans to wear a top hat decorated with stars and stripes, as well as a Severna Park Centennial polo shirt.

Of Severna Park, he said, "I love it, wouldn't live anywhere else."

Meyers, a retired colonel, recalls a Severna Park lifestyle that 21st century residents can hardly imagine, according to a biographical profile he wrote with his daughter, Ann Harrison of Severna Park.

As a little boy in 1917, Meyers moved with his family to rural Severna Park. The family had a farm on 30 acres of land now partly occupied by the Severna Park United Methodist Church.

At night, Meyers and his uncle, Henry Sturgis, hauled the family's main crop, tomatoes, in a horse-drawn wagon to a cannery near Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

During the day, Meyers commuted to school in Baltimore, a trip that required riding the streetcar and the WB&A train and walking. It was a long hike from the railway station at Earleigh Heights to his house on Benfield Road that, at the time, was "paved" with dirt and oyster shells. Now renovated, the train station is headquarters for area park rangers and sits beside the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail that follows the old railroad right-of-way.

As a student at the Johns Hopkins University, Meyers began his military career by joining the ROTC. In 1930 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.

Serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps, Meyers was called to active duty at the outbreak of World War II. He was deployed to England in 1942 and saw action in some of the war's most famous battles: the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge under General George S. Patton. He also participated in the bridging of the Rhine River.

His military decorations include the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five battle stars, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the Army of Occupation (Japan) Medal, the Korean Service Medal and the Distinguished Unit Citation, plus numerous weapons qualification medals.

Meyers and his wife, Eleanor, were married for 69 years. He has three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

"Severna Park - 100 Years of Excellence" is the theme of this year's parade, which dates back three decades.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church on Benfield Road. The parade will feature neighborhood residents, scouts, equestrians, fire engines, floats and music.

Since Cypress Creek Road will be closed to vehicular traffic from 10 a.m. to noon, paradegoers are encouraged to park their cars at Severn School, Old Severna Park Village, the Ebersberger Business Center or St. John's Church.

Along the parade route, volunteers from the middle school youth group at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church will be collecting nonperishable food and monetary donations for the Severna Park Assistance Network.

The pantry is busiest in the summer months, said SPAN Director Linda Moore. Last year SPAN provided more than $90,000 in donated food and more than $88,000 in financial assistance to local families in crisis.

The afternoon celebration will be a re-creation of a 1930s country fair, said Linda Zahn, director of the Severna Park Chamber of Commerce.

There will be all kinds of early 20th century-type shenanigans: a cake walk, a tug of war and a softball challenge. A farmers' market will sell fresh produce such as corn, tomatoes and pickles and baked goods beneath blue-and-white tents with red streamers.

A Dixieland band will perform on stage while vendors sell hamburgers, hot dogs, shrimp, ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy.

"Bring money," said Zahn. "There'll be plenty of things to spend money on."

Festivalgoers are invited to continue the Fourth of July celebration until 4 p.m. with a free swim in the community center's indoor pool.

On Monday residents can begin their Independence Day celebration at the Downs Park fireworks display. The display begins about 9:15 p.m., said Bill Offitt, superintendent of Kinder Farm Park, who worked at Downs Park before moving to the Millersville park.

This is the first fireworks display at Downs Park since 1998 and it should be very popular, said Offitt.

"Come early," he said. "If you wait, you will see the fireworks from Mountain Road."

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