Copper Country remembers

COPPER HARBOR – About 200 people made it out to the Memorial Day celebration at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park Monday, one of numerous ceremonies across the Keweenaw.

The guest speaker was retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. James Huovinen. Keweenaw County has about 340 veterans, and Houghton County has another 3,600, he said.

“It is absolutely amazing to discover how many Copper Country men and women have served in the military,” he said.

Huovinen spoke about three Dollar Bay High School graduates killed in the Vietnam War who were memorialized last year with plaques at the school: Sgt. Dale Moilanen, Sgt. Edward Kolka and Second Lt. David Cavis.

“If these three heroes were alive today, one wonders what would life be for them,” he said. “For sure they would have started families and watched with pleasure as their kids participated in school activities, such as the Copper Harbor students did today. … Ed may have taken over his dad’s garage. Dave might have become a high school science teacher and basketball coach. Dale might have become anything he wanted to be, because, according to his classmates, he had that much talent. These three men represent a microcosm of every town in the Copper Country.”

Monday’s program included songs by the students of the Copper Harbor School, a musical tribute by Mel Jones, presentation of the colors by the Keweenaw Detachment No. 1016 of the U.S. Marine Corps League, an invocation and benediction by Bonnie Harrer and remarks by park supervisor Robert Strittmatter.

The Copper Harbor students performed several songs, including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and also presented flowers in honor of soldiers killed in each of America’s wars and military conflicts.

Jones, on trumpet and pocket cornet, played songs such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and told stories related to each. In the case of that song, at an early public performance, an overcome President Abraham Lincoln is said to have yelled out “Play it again!”

After the ceremony, Copper Harbor students handed out Memorial Day poppies to the crowd.

Michigan Technological University alumni Wayne and Annette Prochaska of Lake Orion, Mich., return every Memorial Day to go camping. But Monday was the first time they caught the park’s Memorial Day program.

“This was absolutely fabulous,” Wayne said. “The kids did a super job. Mel was fabulous … very personal, especially the colonel’s talk about the kids from Dollar Bay.”

Annette echoed Wayne’s praise.

“I liked the stories with the hymns and how that played in,” she said. “The students were outstanding. They were really good.”