ABOVE PHOTO: Dr. Thomas Keer, Gayle Keer, Rep. Margo Davison, and Dr. Caroline B. Harris.
By Leah Fletcher
A parade lead by the town’s mayor, complete with a marching band playing patriotic music, fire trucks riding along the route with sirens booming, crowds of cheering onlookers, and of course, the American flag, were symbolic of Yeadon Borough’s celebration of Flag Day.
“The American flag represents so much to so many people,” said Yeadon Mayor Rohan Hepkins. “It is a great holiday to honor an emblem of the United States, which is truly a land of opportunity.”
On Saturday, June 11, there was no better place to honor the flag because it was the efforts, in part, of long-time, Yeadon resident William T. Kerr that resulted in the establishment of National Flag Day. Kerr, who was originally from Pittsburgh, was inspired by the stories of his father, a Civil War veteran. He waged a 67-year campaign to get June 14 designated as a national holiday.
In 1888, Kerr founded the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania, an organization to which he dedicated his life. The Kerr family moved to Yeadon in 1928. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as the official date for Flag Day. In 1949, the U.S. Congress permanently established the date as National Flag Day. Kerr was there to watch as President Harry Truman signed House Bill 203, declaring June 14 a legal holiday commemorating the flag.
It keeping with Kerr’s legacy, Yeadon celebrated Flag Day like no other community. The celebration was a huge, all-day event. The annual parade, led by Mayor Hepkins, began on Church Lane and wrapped around Bailey Road to William T. Kerr Field, named in honor of the Flag Day founder. The parade was followed by a naturalization ceremony where 21 immigrants from 14 countries took their oaths of citizenship and became American citizens.
Hepkins’ remarked to the gathering that he too was an immigrant born in Jamaica, raised in Britain and naturalized as an American citizen. “My parents were immigrants and could have settled anywhere,” said Hepkins, who is also a local pastor. “However, they chose America because it held out the promise of liberty, equality and opportunity. They realized that with hard work immigrants can realize the American Dream.”
Participating in the celebration were State Sen. Anthony S. Williams (District-8) and State Reps. Margo Davidson (D-164) and Johanna McClinton (D-191), all represent parts of Yeadon Borough and Philadelphia. Also present were local Council President Sharon Council-Harris, Council Vice President Dr. Delores McCabe and Council members Learin Johnson, Renita Austin and Taliah Jones-Waters.
Later at Kerr Field, the fun continued with live music featuring The Trammps, an Antique Car Show, lots of food and craft vendors. The event culminated with scores of residents within as fireworks brilliantly lit the sky. The Borough’s voluntary fire company was on standby to make certain there were no brush fires, according to Joanne Melazzo, president of the fire company. She also thanked the firefighting companies of Yeadon, Millbourne and Darby for supporting the event.
Mayor Hepkins recognized the Borough’s supporting legacy and his hope for its future, “We are the founders of Flag Day. We want to make Yeadon great again.” His enthusiasm was evident, as was Yeadon commitment to honor Flag Day. Flags were everywhere. There was one flying high at the front of the borough building. There were more in front of the historic homes along Baily Road, Longacre Boulevard, Cobbs Creek Parkway and dozens of other borough streets. There were even small ones stitched on the uniforms of every police officer who patrolled the borough’s streets. Thanks to the legacy of William T. Kerr the American flag remains a big deal in Yeadon Borough.
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