Retired sailor to participate in his 39th Memorial Day ceremony
July 4, 2008 · Updated 12:09 PM
The shrill sound of Jim Kersons boatswains pipe is one that has filled the air at the Fleet Reserve Associations Memorial Day ceremony for 39 years now.
My talents followed me into my civilian life, the 77-year-old said of his participation in the annual ceremony. Ive been doing it ever since.
The retired sailor and FRA Branch 29 member has participated in the event since 1967. This year he will once again be present to perform the ceremonial calls which he describes as taking a lot of lung power.
This years ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Monday, May 29 at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, located at 5409 Kitsap Way. The ceremony is hosted at the flag pole with participation from the Ladies Auxiliary of FRA Unit 29 and a Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor Marine rifle detachment. Capt. Dan Peters, commander of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, will serve as guest speaker.
Its excellent, its really a see-worthy performance, Kerson said of the event.
For 20 years, Kerson served as a boatswains mate in the Navy, before retiring in 1966. He last served aboard the now-decommissioned supply ship USS Sacramento.
I never dreamed I would see my good vessel go out, he said.
Prior to his retirement, Kerson joined the FRA in 1963.
The FRA is an organization the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard can turn to like a union, he said. We work closely with lobbyists maintained in (Washington,) D.C. Through FRA, sailors have benefited a lot in the last 50 years.
The organizations annual Memorial Day event is one that Kerson holds near and dear to his heart.
Its a very important day because I get to honor my shipmates, he said. As I stand before the mass, I recall some of my favorite shipmates and wonder why they left us.
He adds that at least 12 of his fellow sailors are now buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Its important for me to know that Im representing the departed shipmates, he said.
As long as hes able, Kerson says he will continue to participate in the ceremony.
Hes the best Ive ever seen, said Bob Crann, fellow FRA Brach 29 member.
Hes good, really good.
Thats what he keeps telling me. Thats why I keep coming back, Kerson said with a chuckle.