by Jim Boyle
There might not be a dry eye at this Monday’s Memorial Day program after Vonnie Christensen finishes singing Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on that Mountain.”
Christensen will play her guitar and sing the gripping tune after Brian Gardner, the commander of the Elk River American Legion, reads the roll call of deceased veterans.
The 135th annual Community Memorial Day Program starts at 10 a.m. Monday and will be held once again at the Lions Park Pavilion.
Christensen, the wife of Navy veteran Kenneth Christensen of Elk River, has sung at many military functions and Memorial Day programs.
She was the lead singer in a band called Vonnie and the Rum River.
In addition to singing at several national Navy Seabee conventions and at the unveiling of a Navy Seabees memorial at Fort Snelling, she once sang at a program for St. Cloud veterans that was hosted by Hubert Humphrey.
“He even did a little jig when I sang “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Christensen recalled.
That was back when Christensen sang professionally with the Chaparelles.
Monday’s occasion will be more somber, of course.
Russ Anderson of the American Legion Honor Guard will play taps, and Diane Pederson, the music director at the Church of St. Andrew, will sing “Let there be Peace on Earth.”
All this will lead into the presentation of awards from the American Legion and V.F.W. auxiliaries and V.F.W. Post 5518 and American Legion Post 112.
Roman Doebler, Vicki Hesselgrave, Curt Swanson and Gardner will present the awards.
Robert Koehler, a retired commander of the United States Navy and the chaplain for the American Legion and the V.F.W., will read the “Bliss” version of the Gettysburg Address.
Christensen will also sing “America the Beautiful.”
An honor guard rifle salute will be performed at the base of the Lions Park flagpole to honor deceased veterans who served their country in the air, on land and at sea.
“If we don’t continue to honor our deceased veterans, our nation is going to forget what our nation stands for,” Koehler said. “Memorial Day is not just a day to go up to the lake.”