In this photo from around the 1980s, Atlee Wampler leads the Memorial Day parade in front of what was then the Westminster Post Office at the corner of East Main Street and Longwell Avenue. Wampler was a tall man who maintained a military bearing forged in heavy combat throughout World War II, all his life. He served as the Memorial Day parade marshall from 1947 until his death in 1991. (Photo courtesy George Welty / May 19, 2012)

On May 28, Carroll County and Westminster will mark the 145th observance of Memorial Day with an expanded parade and three-days of activities — thanks to all the hard work of American Legion Carroll Post No. 31 and leaders like Skip Amass, coordinator of this year's activities.

The tradition of the parade and ceremony in Westminster began in 1868, when Mary Bostwick Shellman followed General John A. Logan's May 5, 1868, General Order No. 11 — which called upon people to adorn the graves of Union soldiers with flowers.

She gathered a group of schoolchildren for that task, and they walked from the old schoolhouse on Center Street to Westminster Cemetery.

As with all the many stories in Carroll, the hands and hearts of countless individuals and community organizations have guided and nurtured the observances over the years. The list is long and celebrated.


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However, one of the names historically synonymous with Memorial Day is particularly worthy of note — Atlee Willis Wampler Jr.

Upon the occasion of Wampler's birthday on May 30, 1914 — and our 145th observance of Memorial Day — there is no better time to remember Wampler and his service to our country, his family, church and our community.

Wampler was born in Westminster and was an active community leader, businessman and proud veteran. He was the Memorial Day parade marshal for more than 44 years, from just after World War II until he passed away on March 11, 1991.

Wampler, a 1931 graduate of Westminster High School and a 1935 graduate of then-Western Maryland College, now McDaniel, was an officer in theU.S. Armyduring WWII, from 1941 to 1946.

He served in heavy combat with the 70th Tank Division against the elite "Afrika Korps" of Gen. Erwin Rommel (a.k.a. "Desert Fox"), including the counteroffensive at Kasserine Pass, where he personally accepted the surrender of thousands of German soldiers.

For his gallantry in action, Wampler was awarded the Silver Star. He later saw action in the invasion of Sicily.

He returned home to community life, and a furniture business, from which he retired in 1984. He was one of the original 10 founders of WTTR Radio, served on the board of directors of Carroll County Bank and Trust, and was chair of the original committee that raised money, founded and constructed Carroll Hospital Center, which was dedicated in 1961.

Wampler was known for being a kind, friendly and considerate family-oriented man, who was also dedicated to God and his church, St. Paul's United Church of Christ.

Two decades after his death, he is still very much missed, but not forgotten. This Memorial Day, I'll be saying a prayer for the life and service of Wampler, and expressing profound gratitude for the acts of brave patriots who gave the full measure to preserve our way of life. Feel free to join me.

When he is not taking the time to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com