Banners of Hometown Heroes pull on the heartstrings

Photos by Tom Rivers: A banner for Frank Berger hangs in the gymnasium at the Orleans County YMCA, which was formerly the Medina Armory and used to train soldiers. Banners for Bruce Burns, left, and Kenneth Edward Baehr are next to Berger, a retired teacher who remains active in the Boy Scouts and American Legion.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2019 at 5:47 pm

‘It’s very emotional seeing all of these faces’

Joe Cardone, the Orleans County district attorney, takes a picture of the banner about his father, the late Vincent Cardone, who served in World War II and returned to Medina to work as a lawyer.

MEDINA – There were many tears today in the Orleans County YMCA, when family and friends of 38 soldiers from the community gathered to see new banners with large photos of the local servicemen.

Mary Woodruff spearheaded the project after her father-in-law, Burr Woodruff, was featured in a banner last year in the Alfred community.

Mary Woodruff had a narrow window to get the banners ordered this year. They are $200 each. Many families and friends of the local veterans bought a banner. The deadline to order them was Feb. 15.

Woodruff said there is lots of interest in the community for a second round of banners. She expects to start the process again this summer, seeking Medina Village Board approval and accepting applications for banners from the community.

The first group will be up before Memorial Day with 32 banners on Main Street and six on East Center Street. Next year the new group of banners will get the Main Street and East Center locations, with the year 1 banners going on side streets.

The banners will come down just after Veterans Day in November. She expects they will last three seasons. The worn banners will then be given to the families of the featured soldiers.

Ken Schaal, a Shelby town councilman, is among the veterans highlighted on a banner. He served with the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. His father, Kenneth Schaal Sr., is also on a banner, and so is Ken Schaal’s nephew, Robert Schaal, who is 28 and fought in the Global War on Terror.

Robert Schaal said the banners have brought together the community and the families of local soldiers. His wife and two children sponsored the banner with his photo from a decade ago, when he joined the Marine Corps.

Ken Schaal and his nephew Robert are featured in two of the banners.

Ken Schaal, who returned to Medina after the Vietnam War and worked at Kodak, thinks the banners will have an impact on the community once they are placed on the poles in two of Medina’s most prominent streets.

“This country needs to bring back patriotism,” he said. “We’ve lost sight of what freedom cost us. All these young people hanging up here on the banners gave up a lot.”

Schaal remains active in local veterans’ organization and serves with the Honor Guard. He appreciated Woodruff organizing the effort with the Hometown Heroes.

“As a veteran, I thank Mary,” he said. “Everyone of these has a story. That’s what’s wonderful about it.”

Mary Woodruff, organizer of the Hometown Heroes, is shown with a banner of her brother-in-law, the late John McElwain, a local electrician who was very active in the Medina Lions Club.

The vinyl banners are double-sided and 5 feet tall by 2 ½ feet wide. Woodruff, a retired social studies and math teacher at Roy-Hart, pushed to start the Hometown Heroes effort in Medina after seeing a similar one in Alfred.

She was given permission by the Medina Village Board to pursue the project in January. She had 38 families step forward by a Feb. 15 deadline. The Medina DPW agreed to install the banners. The Village Clerk’s Office handled the money for the project.

The banners have red and blue borders with a portrait of the featured veteran, as well as the vet’s name, time of service, branch of military, and honors. It also states who sponsored the banner.

Rose Allard takes a picture of the banner with her late husband, Robert Allard. She said her husband was very patriotic and always stood at attention and would salute when he saw an American flag.

“It’s wonderful,” she said about the banners. “I’m so glad Medina did this.”

Many of Homer McPherson’s family members joined him at the reception in the Y for the unveiling of the banners. Homer, in white baseball hat, served with the Army from 1948 to 1954.

“I think it’s nice,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”

He also is happy the Y now has a bronze statue of a soldier on top of a Medina Sandstone memorial, honoring the soldiers who trained at the Armory.

“That monument is beautiful out there,” McPherson said.

Vince Iorio, pastor of the Calvary Tabernacle Assembly of God church in Medina, takes a photo of the banner of his late father, who served in World War II.

Iorio had tears, seeing the banner.

“It’s very emotional seeing all of these faces,” he said.

Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone also took photos with a banner of his father, the late Vincent Cardone, and his uncle, the late Frank Cardone. The two brothers served in the Army during World War II. Two other Cardone brothers – Joe and Bert – were in the Navy during WWII.

“It’s not everyday you can look into our past and see the faces of the people who contributed so much to our community and country,” Cardone said.

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