Piantedosi Honored as Memorial Day Grand Marshal

May 19, 2023
Joseph R. Piantedosi will serve as the grand marshall of Bedford’s Memorial Day observances on May 29. Image: Barbara Purchia

One of town government’s most active and involved personalities over the past two generations will be honored as grand marshal of Bedford’s Memorial Day observances on Monday, May 29.

Joseph R. Piantedosi, a former five-term selectman, is a member of the Patriotic Holiday Committee, which he actually helped establish about 30 years ago. He chaired the committee for its first decade. A former chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, he continues to serve on the Volunteer Coordinating and the Depot Park Advisory Committees.

The Patriotic Holiday Committee nominates one or more ceremonial grand marshals each year for the honor of riding in the town’s Memorial Day parade and being recognized during ceremonies for their military service and service to the community.

Piantedosi will continue his most visible Memorial Day role on the 29th, near the close of the ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Park. He will read the roll call of local veterans who died over the past 12 months, continuing a tradition that was sustained for many years by longtime veterans advocate Nick Genetti, also a former selectman.

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“Joe has always been a ‘take-charge’ leader and a long-time advocate for veterans and veterans’ causes,” stated Paul Purchia, chair of the Patriotic Holiday Committee. “He’s helped me immensely over my nearly 20 years as chair of Bedford’s Patriotic Holiday Committee. He’s a friend to veterans and a friend to me.”   

The Memorial Day observances replicate a two-part template followed over many years, mostly concentrated at local war memorials. Six times over the course of the morning, firing squad volleys will be followed by the playing of “Taps,” with an echo, by Bedford High School senior Evan Karen and junior Alex Mattson.

Participants will begin the day by convening at American Legion Post 221, at 357 The Great Road, site of the Korea and Vietnam monument. The observance will then move to the Civil War monument at Shawsheen Cemetery, where former Selectman Don Corey, representing the Bedford Historical Society, will relate themes of local history from that era. Next, deceased naval veterans will be honored in a brief ceremony at the newly-named Barry Seidman Bridge over the Shawsheen River on The Great Road.

The midpoint of the morning’s observances is sponsored by the Bedford Historical Society and the Bedford Minuteman Co. at the Old Burying Ground on Springs Road. Lee Yates of the Historical Society will speak about the cemetery and Minutemen Capt. Peter Captain Secor will read the roll call of all Revolutionary War veterans buried there.

Another annual feature is a presentation by resident Terrence L. Parker about the three enslaved Black residents who served during the war: Caesar Jones, Caesar Prescott, and Cambridge Moore. The marker in their honor is in the northeast part of the cemetery, which was known as the African Reservation, resting place for most of the town’s Black residents in the 18th and part of the 19th centuries.

The Memorial Day parade will form on Mudge Way, close to the monument in memory of Bedford High School graduates who made the supreme sacrifice. There will be a brief ceremony there before the parade continues to the World War I monument on the Common and culminates at Veterans Memorial Park, site of the town’s World War II memorial. 

Following the police and fire honor guard and the grand marshal, the parade will include the Bedford Minutemen, Hanscom Air Force base leadership, the BHS Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps marching unit, veterans and Auxiliary members from the America Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, state and local officials, including members of the Patriotic Holiday Committee, the BHS Marching Band. and residents of the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Brownies, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts will join the parade at the Town Common.

Yates will be the speaker at the World War I boulder. At Veterans Memorial Park, the keynote speaker will be Col. Taona Enriquez, commander of the 66th Air Base Group at Hanscom. Other speakers will include Select Board Chair Bopha Malone, State Rep. Kenneth Gordon, and Purchia. The BHS will play “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Piantedosi also will announce the names of 13 Bedford men killed in action between World War II and the Iraq war. Each is honored with an engraved stone at the park. The grand marshal will close the program by raising the flag to full staff. 

The 2023 grand marshal said he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1966 and attended four specialty schools over the next 11 months because of his undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering. 

After serving with a helicopter anti-submarine squadron in Rhode Island, Piantedosi said, he deployed on aircraft carriers three times as a jet engine mechanic and helicopter systems specialist. Some of his more memorable experiences were harassment by Soviet bombers while in the Arctic Ocean and a rescue during a “horrific hurricane” hundreds of miles off the coast of North Carolina.

As a petty officer, second class, he said, he was in charge of a group responsible for aircraft corrosion control aboard the USS Forrestal. Piantedosi was discharged from active duty in September 1970.

In the event of heavy rain, the parade and outdoor ceremonies will be canceled and the Memorial Park ceremonies will be held in Buckley Auditorium at BHS starting at 11 a.m. Memorial Day details in brochure format are available at www.bedfordma.gov/653/Patriotic-Holiday-Committee.

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