Tualatin Memorial Day event moves to Lake of the Commons

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(From left) Dale Potts, Loyce Martinazzi and Jesse Thompson sit on a bench at the Lake of the Commons where this year’s Memorial Day celebration will be held. Potts organized and emceed the event for 20 years; Martinazzi co-founded the event in 1999; and Thompson is taking over the reins from Potts as the event organizer and emcee. Barbara Sherman/Tualatin Life
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While most elements of Tualatin’s long-standing Memorial Day ceremony will be the same this year, guests can expect a few changes as well.

The Missing-Man Maneuver Flyover will be performed by the West Coast Ravens RV Formation Team, and narrated by Pat McCartan.
The Missing-Man Maneuver Flyover will be performed by the West Coast Ravens RV Formation Team, and narrated by Pat McCartan.

For starters, the ceremony, which begins at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, May 29, is moving from Winona Cemetery, where the event has been held since its inception in 1999, to the Lake of the Commons. The commemoration will be held in the large plaza on the west side of the lake, directly across the lake from the future site of Tualatin’s veterans memorial, which will be called Veterans Plaza.

Another major change is that Dale Potts, who has coordinated the event and acted as emcee for the past 20 years, is stepping down to make way for a new leader, Jesse Thompson. Potts, who is retired from the U.S. Navy, was on active duty for three years during the Vietnam War and then served for another 27 years in the Navy Reserves, will remain involved with the event.

Thompson served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1992 to 1997 and then went on active duty for 20 years. “I retired from the military but not life,” said Thompson, who was raised in Southern California and lived in many different places during his military tenure. He and his wife chose Oregon as their permanent home and bought a house after he retired in 2019.

Thompson, who works in Beaverton, wants to give back to his newly adopted community and become involved with different groups. As part of that endeavor, he joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 in Tualatin, where a member told him about the annual Memorial Day event. 

The National Anthem and other patriotic songs will be performed by the Tualatin High School Crimsonnaires.
The National Anthem and other patriotic songs will be performed by the Tualatin High School Crimsonnaires.

 “(The member) told Dale about my interest, and Dale asked me to get involved, with the idea of me taking over coordination,” Thompson said. “This year, we are splitting the planning to ensure a smooth transition.” Potts added, “He was my assistant last year, and I am his assistant this year.”

Thompson, who said he is making a long-term commitment to lead the Memorial Day event, explained, “For the last 20 years, I moved my family around, and laying down roots and being involved in my community is something I have never done before. This is a wonderful community. I could do this for the next 20 years.”

Thompson continued, “Dale has a wealth of knowledge. In subsequent years, I will rely on him less and less. Dale built a wonderful program, and it is great the way it is. It hits all the marks. It lasts 40 to 60 minutes and is a wonderful way to bring the community together to enjoy some patriotic music and prayers.”

The past and future emcees recently met with Loyce Martinazzi, one of the co-founders of Tualatin’s Memorial Day celebration, at the Juanita Pohl Center to talk about the event.

“I don’t remember exactly why we started the celebration,” Martinazzi said. “We always met at the cemetery on Memorial Day to do a clean-up, and it went from there. All the old families – probably 30 people – got together.”

Potts, who estimates that he belongs to about a dozen military-support organizations, was asked to speak in 2000 and then volunteered to do the organizing and emcee duties. “It took a while to get the exact format we wanted, but I stopped making substantive changes six or seven years ago,” he said.

One change he made was switching the missing-man maneuver flyover to the West Coast Ravens, a group of pilots who build and fly their own recreational airplanes. “Previously, we had an Air Force stealth jet do a quick flyover,” Potts explained. “It took a tremendous amount of paperwork going back and forth between different agencies to get approval. The final part involved a pilot calling me a week prior to the event to let me know it was a ‘go.’ If we did not hear from him, they were not coming. And they could not fly if the weather was bad.

“The West Coast Ravens normally start their flyover at Willamette National Cemetery, loop around Canby, and then fly over several communities with Memorial Day ceremonies, including Wilsonville’s Korean War Memorial, Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton, and Hillsboro,” Potts continued. “Their organizer lives in Tualatin, and when he stepped down, he became the flyover narrator for us.”

While many parts of the event will remain the same, Thompson said, “The biggest change is the new venue. Why wait for the new veterans memorial to be built on the east side of the Lake of the Commons? Why not hold the event on the west side now?”

While Martinazzi is supportive of the change in venues, she said, “We old-timers and the relatives of those buried at Winona will also meet there on Memorial Day.” And she added, “It is wonderful that this event is still being carried on. It is very nice.”

One tradition that will definitely continue is honoring a local veteran each year. Potts said that as of the 2020 census, there were 1,401 veterans living in Tualatin. This year’s honored veteran is Dave Dehart. He joined the U.S. Army at age 17, and after boot camp, was sent to Korea, where he drove prisoners of war in a truck and later served as a chauffeur for a general, who got him into language school where Dehart learned Turkish. Then he became the interpreter for the general commanding the NATO base in Turkey. From there, Dehart was recruited to work in intelligence and then counter-intelligence.

One final change to this year’s event will be the addition of the Portland Model Power Boat Association conducting a float on the lake, with models including replicas of several historic Naval ships.

“They will probably start setting up around 9:30 in the morning and go until the flyover,” Thompson said. “They may resume after the flyover. These are big 8- to 10-foot-long boats. The group is excited to do this. They are very excited about being included in our event and are happy to talk to the public about their boats.”

Potts expects good weather for the event, as usual. “It has never rained on our Memorial Day event,” he said. “One year, just as the Crimsonnaires walked in, it stopped sprinkling.”

Following the ceremony, everyone is invited to come to a free community barbecue at Tualatin Community Park.

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