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Memorial Day parade to march on without Cecil Boswell
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Vance in his Navy blues during World War II.

Memorial Day parade

When: 10 a.m. Monday

Where: Green Street, Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info: www.gainesville.org

Gainesville’s annual Memorial Day parade will have the same patriotic flair, from high schoolers marching with their band instruments and antique cars tooling down Green Street.

But it won’t have Cecil Boswell.

Every year, the World War II veteran would stride down the parade route in the same green uniform he wore when he was discharged from the Army and kept in his bedroom closet.

Boswell’s death on Feb. 19 at 99 left the community in mourning, with residents recalling his heroism. He was part of the second wave invading Normandy on D-Day, and he fought in the pivotal Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris in 1944.

But there was also the matter about the parade — and Boswell’s iconic place in it.

“He was planning on walking this year,” said Dave Dellinger, former commander of American Legion Post 7 in Gainesville.

Boswell was especially eager to walk, because last year’s break in tradition — riding in a golf cart along the parade route — didn’t sit well with him.

Perhaps tired of the ride, he finally “got off (the cart) and sat in a chair, and watched the rest of the parade go by,” Dellinger recalled with a chuckle. “He was a character.”

No doubt, parade co-organizer Cheryl Vandiver said, “Nobody could ever take Cecil’s place.”

The Christian-based Trail Life boys group at Boswell’s church, Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church at 1210 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville, will carry a banner in his honor during the parade.

Church office manager Brenda Owens, a church member helping with the effort, said Boswell’s death left a hole in the church, as well.

Boswell would walk to church from his house off Georgia Avenue and sit at his usual pew spot. Until just a few years ago, he also mowed the church’s grass, as he did his own.

“He was such a historical figure who was well-loved in our church,” Owens said. “You could talk with Cecil for hours and hear a different story every time.”

This year’s parade will have a decorated veteran walking in uniform.

Hall County resident Larkin “Bill” Vance, 89, said he agreed to walk at Dellinger’s request.

“It’ll be pretty emotional for me, no question about that,” Vance said.

He plans to wear a khaki special operations uniform, which he bought for $25 at an antique market in Braselton.

“It fits me perfectly,” he said.

Vance, a retired Army colonel, not only served in three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — he also served in different stints in the Navy, Air Force and Army. He also served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

Dellinger said Vance’s addition worked out perfectly.

“He said he walks at least a mile every morning and he works out at the gym,” he said. “And he’s about Cecil’s size — he’s a small guy.”

Dellinger said in an interview after Boswell’s death that organizers had planned to make Boswell grand marshal again this year.

“We did it once about five or six years ago,” he said.

Instead, World War II veterans are going to be the grand marshals.

“We’re putting all of them in front,” Dellinger said.

Still, he said, the parade is not going to be same without Boswell, who was born in Jackson County but spent most of his life — before and after the war — in Gainesville.

“He was the star of the show,” he said. “We’re going to miss him.”

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