SHIRLEY -- It looks like a pending problem has been solved, thanks to a grass-roots effort by town veterans and the selectmen, who on Monday night appointed seven members to a new Memorial Day Committee.
The Veterans Memorial Day Committee consists of World War II veteran Norman Albert and six other local military veterans: Kevin Johnston, Neil and John Guthrie, Shirley Police Sgt. Alfreda Cromwell, Athanace "Joe" Landry and Veterans Services Officer Dwight "Mike" Detillion.
Acting as spokesperson for the group and with six of its seven members present, Albert said they came together after learning that Memorial Day services in town would be curtailed this year. "We need your official approval to proceed," he told the board.
At a previous meeting, Chairwoman Kendra Dumont read aloud a letter from American Legion Post #183 Commander Lewis Criess informing the board that the Legion would not be conducting annual Memorial Day activities this year.
Criess said in the letter that although the post would continue to fulfill its duty to honor United States service men and women who died in the service of their nation by laying wreaths at town war monuments and placing flags on their graves, it did not have enough members to plan and conduct other Memorial Day activities as in past years.
Those other activities included a parade with marching band, guest speakers at gatherings on the Common and at Whiteley Park and a luncheon hosted by the Legion and Legion auxiliary in the War Memorial Building after the solemn ceremonies concluded.
Albert said the committee aims to pick up those ancillary activities, honoring military heroes and giving townspeople the Memorial Day experience they have come to expect.
Selectman David Swain thanked the group for stepping up.
"This has fallen to the American Legion in the past," he said of the Memorial Day tasks it can no longer take on due to low membership.
Hopefully, the formation of the new committee will spark town-wide interest, he said, maybe "bring in younger blood" to keep the tradition alive in future years.
Dumont said she and Town Administrator Patrice Garvin had talked about sending a letter to the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District, asking if students were interested in helping out. "Shall we do that?" she asked Albert.
His answer was yes.
"We'll do our best to put on exercises as usual," he said.
Asked who to contact if folks want to get involved, Albert offered his own phone number: 978-425-4808. "They can call me," he said.
The Veterans Memorial Day Committee will hold its first official meeting next week.