2015 Memorial Day – Mayor Kelly Decker
This past Friday I had the rare opportunity to actually sit down and watch a movie that was given to me about a month ago. The movie was called “Taking Chance” based on the real life events of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl. LTC Strobl was the escort for the remains of Marine Private First Class Chance Phelps who was killed outside Bahdad Iraq over eleven years ago on Good Friday. The military escorts the remains of our fallen soldiers back to their home for final interment. In the movie there was a scene of American Flag draped coffins in the cargo area of a C5A. I immediately recalled an October evening in 1990, as if it were yesterday, when I was standing inside the Lockheed Galaxy tail 170 observing that same scene but only there it wasn’t in the movie, it was real. I begin to think how those Americans, PFC Phelps and others like them will never again enjoy a Memorial Day BBQ with family and friends.
On Saturday, I attended the full military honors funeral service of a beloved Port Jervian. Chris Farlekas grew up in Port Jervis. After high school he joined the United States Army where he became a medic in a MASH unit in Korea. Chris held the hands of many men as they left this mortal earth. Although Chris did not perform any official military escort, he did take it upon himself to seek out the families of those men who died, in his presence, in Korea. He found solace in being able to help give those family members and friends comfort in knowing that their loved ones were not alone when they died. To talk to Chris was powerful as he was a man who listened to what you had to say with intense interest.
I listened to his memorial service on Saturday and I thought and prayed too. During the folding of the American Flag it came to me as if it were an epiphany that the Tri-folded American Flag that is handed over to the next of kin for the deceased actually contains the never forgotten memories of not only that deceased service member but of all Americans that have died for our freedom.
As the flag is opened up and presented with its 13 red and white stripes that represent our nations beginning along with the blue and white stars of today the detail begins the honorary folding. Eventually disappearing entombed for eternity is the memories of our nation’s past. Each soldier that gave their life for our freedom is now out of sight with the red and white until all that is left are the white stars with the blue background of who we are today. We are here today because they all gave so much.
Chris was not just one of those men who gave to only Port Jervis, our state and nation; he gave to others and therefore I would like to read the following Proclamation.
Whereas, Chris Spero Farlekas was born in Port Jervis, New York on April 23, 1929; and
Whereas, Chris grew up in his family owned business, “Spero’s”, in downtown Port Jervis and was actively involved in the Port Jervis School District where he participated in the Drama Club, Newspaper Club, Journalism Club and was the editor of his senior class yearbook prior to his graduation from the school; and
Whereas, Chris volunteered for the United States Army in 1949 and became a medic in a MASH unit in Korea; and
Whereas, Chris returned to the United States and traveled over 15,000 miles to visit families of men he cared for in Korea that never came home; and
Whereas, Chris continued his love of journalism for over 46 years and logged over 22,000 articles including a stint as a war correspondent in Vietnam; and
Whereas, Chris, as a journalist, interviewed countless Americans young and old, unknown and famous and would recall the countless stories as if he wrote them yesterday but never once divulged his favorite; and
Whereas, Chris was a remarkably generous man who would dress as Santa Claus and give gifts to children as well as donating to many area causes; and
Whereas, Chris, was a tremendous supporter of the arts and founder of “The Grass Roots Players” as well as being a lifetime member of Presby Players in his beloved City of Port Jervis ; and
Whereas, Chris was bestowed many honors throughout his life including his induction into the Port Jervis Alumni Hall of Fame in 2010;
Therefore, I, Mayor Kelly B. Decker, declare this Memorial Day May 25, 2015 “Chris Spero Farlekas Day” in the City of Port Jervis. On behalf of the entire city, I would like to posthumously thank Chris for his many years of dedication and service to our community. He was truly an upstanding citizen and role model for not only the residents of the city, but for all Americans.
I presented Chris’ proclamation to his good friend and executor of his estate Greg Giblin but I would like to truly Thank Chris, as well as all other Americans, who gave everything to allow you and me to be free.