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Clearwater mobile home community honors WWII veterans with USO-style show

CLEARWATER — It was a 1940s USO show all over again.

When the Bay Aristocrat Village Choir presented its annual spring concert, they came dressed as nurses, soldiers, cooks and medics from World War II.

They may have been a bit grayer than the originals, but their hearts were still young as they piped out love songs and other tunes like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, and Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.

Cathy Lamont, a music teacher for 22 years and director of the choir, said she had been planning to do a USO-themed tribute for three years.

"My dad was 18 when he went into World War II," she said. "He died in 2002 and it's really for him that I conceived this concert three years ago."

The Canadian snowbird announced her plans to fellow residents during Christmas 2007.

"I wanted to set up the other room as a museum and this gave the snowbirds in the park a chance to go home and dig out things they wanted to display. The entire park rallied around this cause," she said.

The tribute to the veterans of the Allied Forces took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights inside the mobile home park's packed clubhouse at 18675 U.S. 19 N.

"It was absolutely beautiful," said Allen Merrill, 86, one of the original Darby's Rangers, a special branch of the Army, and a POW who escaped from the Germans in 1944.

Merrill and other vets were recognized individually during the program.

"It made my heart go pitter-patter. I could see myself re-enlisting," he said.

With the help of park resident Lynda Pound, Lamont's vision of a World War II "museum" came to fruition.

The temporary exhibit set up in an adjacent room was filled with model fighter planes or "warbirds," old photos of soldiers, uniforms, and other paraphernalia.

Al Richmond, 69, a resident of Clearwater, is a passionate collector of military memorabilia and contributed 12 Army uniforms and a vast array of insignias.

"I've been collecting since 1945 when my father came home from Europe," he said.

When the program was over, Lamont had tears in her eyes.

"I wanted to salute these men and women before they're all gone," she said.

Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com

Clearwater mobile home community honors WWII veterans with USO-style show 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 8:27pm]
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