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Grand marshal tries to forget World War II

Asked what he thinks of on patriotic holidays, the grand marshal of Lockport's Independence Day parade said Tuesday evening he tries not to remember.

"I try to forget everything I saw over there. It was too much," said Raymond E. Webster Sr., who earned two Purple Hearts fighting in western Europe in 1944 and 1945.

Webster, 87, was chosen as grand marshal of the parade because he is one of the oldest remaining World War II veterans in Lockport. He rode in a vintage light blue Chevrolet driven by his son-in-law, Timothy Mulvey.

Still slim and dressed in khaki, Webster looked like he might have been wearing his original uniform, but he said only the hat and tie were his in the 1940s.

"When I got home, I threw out everything," said Webster, who served three years and reached the rank of corporal in the 113th Cavalry.

His combat experiences stayed with him.

"My wife used to have to wake me up because of the dreams I had," Webster said.

One of the points of this year's parade was to honor service members of more recent vintage. Patricia Craft, the mother of a current Navy sailor, has become prominent in saluting servicemen in Lockport in the past couple of years.

For Tuesday's parade, she lined up a batch of antique cars filled with veterans of wars from World War II to Iraq. She also organized a float for the four service recruiting officers in Lockport and some families and recent recruits.

Hillman Automotive and Adams Towing donated flatbed trucks; Verratti Farms of Gasport gave her bales of straw for the riders to sit on; and Tops Markets gave her $60 worth of candy for the riders to toss to children at the curb.

Petty Officer First Class Ben Norman, the local Navy recruiter, praised Craft's efforts. "She's done an outstanding job trying to make the public understand what's going on," Norman said.

Norman said Niagara County has provided 15 new Navy recruits in the eight months he's been assigned here, which is more than he expected.

The parade stretched three long blocks along Locust Street, a residential area, where the parade was moved in 2005 while Main Street was under construction. Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the parade will stay on Locust Street permanently.

Hundreds of people watched the parade, with parked cars of spectators lining both sides of most of the intersecting streets and half filling the Kenan Center parking lot, which is along the route.

"I think it's a fabulous turnout. People are feeling good about the city. And it's a great night," Tucker said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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