Ashland 'boys' saluted with historical marker
ASHLAND - Ashland experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event Saturday as the Ashland Boy's Association (ABA) was honored with its own state historical marker during a dedication ceremony at the Mother's Memorial.
The marker dedication in and of itself was a tremendous event, but that it was held before the only monument in the world dedicated to all mothers was also of great importance since the Mother's Memorial marks its 75th anniversary and was an ABA project.
A crowd gathered before the memorial along Hoffman Boulevard and Chestnut Street for the 3 p.m. program, with the historical marker covered until its official unveiling. Approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission last September, obtaining the marker took more than two years through the work of the ABA Historical Marker Committee, spearheaded by its chairman, Adam J. Bernodin III, and James Klock.
The committee's first application was rejected by the commission in 2010, but
the next application was approved, giving the committee a whole year to put everything together for a very memorable day. The ABA parade was held at noon, traveling its usual route of Walnut and Centre streets.
The dedication ceremony was opened by Ashland fire Chief Phillip Groody, who was master of ceremonies.
"I welcome you to Ashland," said Groody. "To all of our native sons and daughters who have returned home to see 'Mother,' who has sat over us for 75 years, I thank you personally for making the trip."
The national anthem was sung by Bryel Frasch, Gordon, 2011 Schuylkill County Jr. Idol. As she sang "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air," a fireworks display of bombastic sound and colored smoke surprised many people, courtesy of Bixler Pyrotechnics Inc. of Ashland. Throughout the program, fireworks were used to emphasize important moments.
After comments and the invocation by the Rev. Robert Finlan, a native Ashland son, Groody asked everyone to face west and bow their heads to honor the departed ABA and Mummer Club members. In facing west, the people looked in the direction that those who returned to Ashland walked to get to their homes, and also toward Washington Park, where the ABA members in the thousands met every Labor Day weekend for a homecoming bash.
The first speaker was Bernodin, who before giving his talk, presented a $500 check to Gary Glessner of the Ashland Public Library to purchase a new microfilm machine. Bernodin also presented a $1,000 check to the Schuylkill Historical Fire Society, which was accepted by President Michael Kitsock. The donation from the marker committee to the library was because of Bernodin's gratitude in doing research for the ABA event, and to the fire society for its participation in the annual parades.
"Everything you see here today in this celebration is all about the true meaning and of the Ashland Boys' Association. I'd like to thank everyone who helped and supported to make this day a success," said Bernodin.
Bernodin spoke of the tradition of ABA, the impact the organization had in Ashland and in other areas of the country where local ABA groups were formed.
"Old traditions are the best traditions," said Bernodin. "Abraham Lincoln once said: 'In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.' It is evident as we all stand here today honoring this historical marker. The Ashland Boys' Association made a huge impact on those years with a permanent influence.
"Leaving behind great parade memories, a special tribute honoring mothers which is the only one of its kind in the world, renaming Third Street to Hoffman Boulevard in honor of their leader Dr. John L. Hoffman, and now a Pennsylvania historical landmark.," Bernodin continued. "Who would ever have thought that 15 Ashland 'boys' with an informal gathering on a hillside in 1899 would evolve into this dynasty?
"The reason and answer to this question? What made the Ashland Boys Association was the evidence of friendship, comradeship, and goodwill, and it is plainly evident that the boys shook hands with old friends whom they have not seen for years. So, when everyone leaves this momentous occasion today, let's continue to celebrate this great tradition on its impressive meaning! Get your family and friends together. Raise your glasses high in the air as we all salute to the Ashland Boys' Association. Welcome Home, ABA!"
The two oldest Ashland "boys" who were able to attend the ceremony were honored. Leonard Staudenmeier, 97, and Daniel Fedeko, 93, were presented with special gifts by Ashland Masonic Lodge No. 294 Worshipful Master Randy W. Dengler and Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania Masons Jay W. Smith. The local lodge, the oldest organization in Ashland, selected the awardees.
After comments by Mayor Dennis Kane, the marker unveiling was at hand. Dr. William V. Lewis Jr., a commissioner on the state historical commission, spoke of the importance of the historical marker.
"I am so proud to help you greet the newest of more than 2,000 state historic marker that mark the people, places and events that make the history of our commonwealth so rich and so very, very diverse," said Lewis. "This is prominent addition to the state historical markers. It will be a great educational tool for the children. Through future generations, they will forever note the contributions of the ABA to this great community."
As Lewis announced the new marker, Bernodin and Klock pulled the cover off to the sound of fireworks, music and the applause and shouts from the crowd. Groody then announced that the landscaped area around the Mother's Memorial is officially "Welcome Home Plaza."