More than an excuse to grill out with family and friends, Memorial Day, first proclaimed "Decoration Day" in 1868, serves as a remembrance of those who stepped up to serve our country.
The men and women who called Norcross home and left that cherished home to battle on fields or ships or airplanes far away were originally honored by stone markers placed in the corners of Thrasher Park.
Walk behind the gazebo, brush back the low hanging branches of the old tree that grows there, sweep away the dead leaves and you will find the last remaining intact plaque on which the name of a young man lost in the Battle of the Bulge can be read.
Joseph Harold Mitchell was born in 1922 and killed in action on July 11, 1944. He is buried in Normandy, France and was a recipient of the Purple Heart.
The other four servicemen honored by those original markers were Joseph Sharp “Joe” Davidson who died at sea September 14, 1944 on the USS Warrington, which was sent out to sea to avoid the Great Atlantic Hurricane forecasted to hit the east coast. During that storm the Warrington sank and Joe was lost at sea, along with 247 of his shipmates.
Aubrey Eugene “Aubrey” Davidson died January 21, 1945 while serving in the Pacific Theater of Operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hancock when two 500-pound bombs, left in a landing plane’s bomb bay, exploded. He was buried at sea on January 23, 1945.
Ralph Westbrook died from complications of double pneumonia in 1946 after the war’s end while still serving in the military. His remains were returned to Georgia and interred at Mt. Carmel Methodist Church. At the time of his death, he was engaged to be married.
Remembered as well was Wyly Quillian “Quill” Letson who died on June 9, 1944 on a mine sweeper in the English Channel during the D-Day Normandy Invasion. Survived by his wife, Sarah Jeffers Letson, their only child, Wylyn Quillian “Lyn” Letson Hodnett, was born after her father’s death.
It was three years after the end of the Civil War Army Maj. Gen. John A. Logan ordered that on May 30 "the choicest flowers of springtime" be placed at the gravesites on the posts he commanded.
"Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners," Logan decreed. "Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."
Norcross did not forget and on Memorial Day of 2009 the city rededicated shiny new markers, donated by the Historic Norcross Preservation Alliance, that now grace the stone wall opposite the amphitheater.