More than a three-day weekend
Often referred to as the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day weekend has become many things for families: the first time firing up the grill, trekking to a beach or setting up a campsite. But it’s also a time to pause and reflect on the service and bravery given by fallen service members.
The Rev. Dr. Charles Ferrara — who prefers Pastor Chuck — of the Patchogue United Methodist Church wanted to make this Memorial Day particularly memorable.
At mass on Sunday, Ferrara recited the names of 13 members of the Methodist Church who were killed in action, ranging from World War I to Afghanistan. As he read each name, a bell chimed out and Mike Amodeo played “Taps” on a bugle.
After a moment of silence, Ferrara unveiled a 4-by-3-foot oil painting showing all 13 service members in uniform.
He started the painting shortly after Memorial Day last year. “When I stepped off the pulpit last year [after a Memorial Day sermon] I felt saddened. I named a few people, not realizing that there were other families in the congregation who had lost family members in the wars,” he explained.
An usher asked Ferrara if he had heard about this person or that person. “I said, ‘no, I didn’t know. But next year, I will.’”
Ferrara said he felt compelled to honor each fallen parishioner of the Methodist Church, making it his mission to learn not only their names, but their stories and their faces. “I did some research with the families. Where I could visit graves, I did. The rest I looked up online,” Ferrara said. “I was able to glean information on how some of them died. There are 13 stories here.”
He learned about Kenneth Lyle Jayne and Bleeker Lattin, who served in WWII and are the namesake of the Patchogue VFW Post 2913. He spoke about the connection between Pfc. David Elton Halliwell and Pfc. Russell H. Mulrain, who both served in the Army during WWII, poignantly. The two Patchogue natives were killed just days apart at the Siegfried Line in Germany in April 1945. Ferrara was struck by the date. “A few more weeks, and they would have gotten to be grandparents someday,” Ferrara said quietly.
A hobbyist painter for most of his life, Ferrara said he picked up the brushes again about six years ago. He stayed focused on details, bringing to life each story on the canvas. He depicts the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising, a nod to Pfc. Robert K. Biggs, the youngest marine killed there, and Pearl Harbor, to honor Jayne and Lattin. Behind Pfc. Boyle A. Kime, Ferrara carefully painted barbed wire; Kime was the longest POW in the Bataan Death March and died in captivity.
Medals, including the Purple Heart, were meticulously painted using acrylic paint and a magnifying glass for the details, Ferrara said.
He mostly relied on reference photos provided by their families. “When I couldn’t find a photo at all, I used a composite sketch,” he said. The oil painting had been drying for six months before he put a varnish coat on it last week.
It was presented to VFW Post 2913 commander Dave Rogers at Sunday’s service, and will hang inside the VFW hall. “We’re going to get it framed and it’ll be a nice addition to our main hall,” Rogers said, in awe of the artwork. “[Pastor Chuck] is an amazing artist — I try to include him in as many shows as possible, because he’s a great self-taught, veteran artist.”
Ferrara, an Army veteran and member of VFW Post 8300 in East Patchogue, said this weekend has always been important to him. “People forget,” he said bluntly. “I think Memorial weekend can be a time of family gatherings and recovering after the winter. I get all that, but I hope families will continue to teach their children about the sacrifices that were made. We should at least pause to go to a parade or do something to remember that not everyone made it home. We enjoy these freedoms because of them.”
Pastor Chuck Ferrara’s painting honors and remembers the following Patchogue United Methodist Church members who were killed in action.
Pfc. Lewis H. Swezey, U.S. Army, France, 1918
Pfc. Thomas B. Prime, U.S. Army, France, 1918
Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Lyle Jayne, U.S. Navy, Pearl Harbor, 1941
Radioman 3rd Class Bleeker Lattin, U.S. Navy, Pearl Harbor, 1941
Chief Machinist Mate 1st Class Jack Otto Stark, Casablanca, 1942
Pfc. Edwin W. Smith, U.S. Marine Corps, Battle of Roi-Namur, 1944
2nd Lt. Paul J. Ehmann, U.S. Army Air Corps, Ardennes, 1944
Pfc. Boyle A. Kime, U.S. Army, Bataan Death March, 1944
Pvt. Robert K. Biggs, U.S. Marine Corps, Iwo Jima, 1945
Sgt. Arthur R. Edwards, U.S. Army, Northern Italy, 1945
Pfc. David Elton Halliwell, U.S. Army, Siegfried Line, 1945
Pfc. Russell H. Mulrain, U.S. Army, Siegfried Line, 1945
Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, U.S. Army, Afghanistan, 2009
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