Christy Lisella estimates that for an incredible 70 years he's been participating in every annual Memorial Day parade in Summit Hill. None likely affected the modest, 91-year-old World War II veteran and life-long resident of the Hilltop community like yesterday's parade
He had tears in his eyes when he was introduced before the parade as the grand marshal. He expressed his thankfulness in just a few words for granting him the honor. He rode in a convertible, smiling and waving to the hundreds of people who lined the parade route on a most glorious day.
It was obvious he was having fun ringing the large bell in Ludlow Park to signal the parade's start, giving it numerous gongs.
The parade took an hour to pass and consisted of six bands, veterans groups from throughout the Panther Valley and Carbon County, military members – including some veterans of the War on Terror, youth athletes, service clubs, and 42 pieces of emergency fire and ambulance equipment.
Tom Vermillion, chairman of the Memorial Day Parade Committee, gleamed at the success of this year's event.
"We have an excellent turnout (of participants and spectators), we have a couple of extra bands this year – two new bands are Our Lady of the Angels Academy Cardinals Band and the Ceol Neamh Pipe Band from Lancaster.
He said of the grand marshal, "Christy is deserving. He's a very humble guy. There were tears in his eyes the whole time."
Eleanor (Fatigati) Porambo of Chesapeake, Va. came to Summit Hill for the parade and to see Lisella honored.
"I worked in the coal strippings with him," she said.
As she ran over to give Lisella a congratulatory hug on his honor, she added that she was a shovel operator and was one of three women working in the coal fields at the time, adding, "and Christy protected me."
Lisella graduated from the former St. Joseph Parochial School in Summit Hill and the former Summit Hill High School in 1939.
He was drafted into the army, going on to serve in the European and African theaters with the 636th Infantry, 36th Division, and attaining the rank of T-5.
The parade was held in hot, humid weather. The temperature was about 80 degrees.
Leading the line of march was the Summit Hill Police Department, followed by about 21 marching members of the town's Davis-Lawton-Yurko-Breslin-Bevich American Legion Post 316.
The Panther Valley High School Marching Band, one of three school bands participating, was next, then the nattily attired marching unit of the Diligence Fire Company of Summit Hill.
The other school band besides Panther Valley and OLOAA was the Marian Catholic High School Band.
There were numerous floats, including one by the Coaldale American Legion Post 170 which depicted the poignant POW place setting of an empty table.
Three fire departments had marching units in the parade. Along with Summit Hill, there were marchers from the American Hose Company of Lansford and the Nesquehoning Fire Department.
Twelve members of a Civil War Long Rifles group fired their guns at various intersections along the parade route.
Clydesdale horses pulled wagons for Yuengling's Brewery and Heisler's Dairy.
Seven motorcycles were in the march with members of American Legion Riders.
Cathy Wilson of Allentown said she came to Summit Hill to see the parade and visit friends and was overwhelmed by the salute given by the small Carbon County community.
"This is incredible," she said of the parade. "It's one of the nicest and greatest tributes to veterans I've ever witnessed. The people here are to be commended for their pride."