SHIRLEY — Frank Dempsey was the honorary marshal for the town’s Memorial Day parade this year.
Dempsey joined the Army in 1943. After a military career that spanned three decades and as many wars, he retired as a command sergeant major.
Dempsey served in World War II and Korea and was still in the service during the Vietnam war, said Michael Flood, the commander of American Legion Post 183. Dempsey was also in two airborne divisions during his military career and served in Japan, Hawaii and Korea, he said.
The uniform Dempsey wore for the parade had “quite a few awards and medals” on it, said Flood.
Dempsey met his wife, Jessie Evans, while stationed at Fort Devens. They were married in Germany in 1951. The couple had four children who served in various branches of the military. One of their sons, Thomas, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, said Flood.
Asked to speak during Memorial Day ceremonies at Whiteley Park, Dempsey was brief.
“Thanks for the honor,” he said.
Underscoring his family’s military roots, he said the occasion “takes me back to the time I met my father-in-law, Tom Evans.”
Evans was a past legion post commander at the time and was committed to helping veterans. His three sons served in the Air Force, Navy and Marines, said Dempsey.
“His daughter married me,” he said.
Dempsey is one of 19 “original WWII veterans” who lived in Shirley when they enlisted and still live in town today, according to a list compiled by Veteran’s Agent Dwight “Mike” Detillion, who invited them all to the town’s Memorial Day ceremonies this year. Several showed up, he said, but then again, most of them always do.
Detillion said 337 Shirley citizens left town to serve their country in WWII. The names of those who died in the war are listed in bronze on one of the park’s stone monuments. Other stone monuments in the park memorialize Shirley men and women who served and died in other wars, including Korea and Vietnam.
Of the 425 veterans who live in Shirley now, 87 are WWII veterans and five are women.