“I thought they made a mistake,” said Stuchinski, who has lived in Forest Hills for over 60 years and is the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association President, Parks Committee Chair of Community Board 6, and deputy chief and co-chair of the community board's Community Emergency response Team (CERT).
But it was no mistake.
“She's done so much for the community, and she's been helping us for years,” said Gene Burch, a Vietnam veteran and member of the American Legion Continental Post 1424, which hosts the annual parade. He is the longest-serving active member of the post's parade committee.
The second grand marshal is Robert E. O'Malley, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran and Woodside native who called Forest Hills his home for a number of years before moving to Texas. O'Malley is a Medal of Honor recipient.
Stuchinski, 76, is also a member of the American Legion Post 1424.
“I was never far removed from the military,” she said, noting that her father served in World War I and that many of her cousins also served. “It's a tremendous honor to serve as grand marshal.”
The parade will be held on Sunday, May 27, and will start at noon at Ascan and Metropolitan avenues. Burch said that he expects about 1,000 people to line the sidewalk. There will be 250-300 individuals marching in the parade and 50 veterans in attendance.
“Everybody thinks that Memorial Day is the day when you can go shopping, but it's for our fallen veterans,” he said. “I thank God I'm alive and wasn't killed.”
Stuchinski agrees. She says that Memorial Day and 9/11 are days to reflect and show gratitude to those who gave their lives and fight to keep the nation free.
“You bet that I'll stride down that avenue like I always do for all the people who deserve honor,” she said. “For every veteran and everyone in Afghanistan or wherever they are, when I'm walking I will be thinking of them.”
The Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade began in 1946. Every year it has been sponsored solely by The American Legion. But this year, due to financial cutbacks, the Legion reached out to TD Bank, which agreed to be a sponsor. The Forest Hills Kiwanis Club is also a sponsor of the parade.
After this year's parade and ceremony at Remsen Memorial Cemetery, the Parks Department will join the Legion Post at the cemetery's garden to honor Thomas Winberry, a Korean War veteran and the former commander of the post who passed away last year. A sign will be placed at the garden, renaming it “Thomas X. Winberry Corner.”