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Chester County Press

Hometown parade in West Grove salutes those who died in service

05/29/2024 11:24AM ● By Chris Barber
Hometown parade in West Grove salutes those who died in service [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

The residents of the West Grove area can thank the Ruffini family for bringing them the annual Memorial Day parade for 24 years.

It is a simple affair comprised of local participants. It attracts several hundred spectators who arrive with folding chairs and often place them near their friends for friendly conversation in addition to parade watching.

In observance of the day’s designation – those who died in America’s wars – many of the visitors this year wore red, white and blue garb at the Saturday event. A significant number brought their dogs, whom they also adorned with the colorful – mostly red -- shirts and collars.

In the early years of this parade, Domenico Ruffini got it started. Every year since, it has had a march down Prospect Avenue and a program of remembrance at the Veterans Memorial Plaza on Evergreen Avenue on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

When Domenico passed away, his son John Ruffini took over the responsibilities and has been doing the job of organizing the event ever since.

West Grove, a small town along Old Baltimore Pike, bears many of the characteristics of classic vintage boroughs.

People arrive and chat with their friends. There is seldom a rush for parking places, and no crowds to obscure the view. Often parents of the Avon Grove Marching Band step out on Prospect Avenue to photograph their children, who are either playing instruments or waving banners in the band front.

This year, enthusiasm was high, apparently because the weather smiled on this event, and the environment was welcoming. Last year, there was an early distraction minutes before the start as an East Penn train came by. Many walked down to the tracks then to greet it.

In addition to the high school band, the parade routinely includes motorcycles, a color guard, antique cars, scouts and local fire company vehicles.

West Grove Fire Company Bill Wohl waves every year to the viewers from the company’s restored truck named “Elsie.”

Following the appearance of the final fire trucks, the visitors walked a block to the Veterans Plaza for a serious remembrance ceremony.

The speaker this year was U.S. Naval Officer Captain Bradford Baker. He has had a long career as a nuclear trained submarine officer and is the in-law of West Grove Mayor Stephen Black.

Baker told the story of being notified of the death of his father – also a naval officer – when he was serving on a submarine.

He said his father passed on an important message to him: The father referred to being in the military as being “in the service.”

Baker said he recalled asking his father, “Why do you call it the service? Why not say you were in the Navy?”

As the years went by, he said, he realized that defending the nation militarily is service. Following his speech, he joined John Ruffini in laying a wreath at the plaza’s veterans memorial stone.

Also on hand for the event was host Navy veteran William Belanger, Rev. Jim Mundell who offered he invocation and benediction, the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps that provided a 21-gun salute, a bagpiper, and the Ruffini family, including the original Domenico’s 13-month-old great-grandson also named Domenico.

Following the parade and ceremony, the town was invited to the West Grove Presbyterian Church up the street for hot dogs and music.