MARIETTA - Shirley Cox of Marietta was taught at an early age to respect the flag and the country it represents.
"During World War II, my grandpa used to wait on me to come around his house and raise the American flag," said Cox, 75.
That pride to be an American has stayed with Cox all of her life and on Thursday it brought her back again to Marietta's annual Independence Day parade, an event she can't ever recall missing.
Marietta residents Shirley, left, and Elbert Cox salute the American flag as the Marietta High School Wall of Sound performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” Thursday on the front lawn of the Armory during a ceremony after the city’s annual Fourth of July parade. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
"I love America, and I love my hometown and all the folks in it," said Cox, the chaplain for the Ladies Auxiliary of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108.
She and her husband, Army veteran Elbert Cox, 79, were among hundreds of residents attending in spite of the threat of rain for Thursday's parade. A few drops fell, but the parade participants and spectators were undeterred as they celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the nation with music, flags, applause and a ceremonial cannon blast on the front lawn of the Armory on Front Street.
"We brought our umbrellas just in case," said Williamstown resident Farrah Hill, 36, who was watching on Front Street with her 3-year-old son Eli.
The family is usually out of town for the holiday, but decided to check out the parade Thursday. Eli said he enjoyed the fire trucks and the music of the Marietta High School Wall of Sound. He was convinced another band was coming even as people gathered at the Armory for a brief ceremony.
"We got to wait for more," he told his mother.
Also enjoying the parade was 89-year-old Kate Hart of Marietta, watching from the corner of Putnam and Third streets with her daughter and son-in-law, Peg and Joe Grimm, and granddaughtyer, Deb Goins, all of Marietta.
"Every time she comes to parades, she waves the flag," Peg Grimm, 68, said of her mother.
Joe Grimm, 68, said he particularly enjoyed the drummer leading the parade with members of the Washington County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
That was Tom Romine, 68, of Athens playing on a replica of a Revolutionary War-era drum and clad in a period uniform, which he said is a great conversation piece.
"It gives me a chance to talk to people," he said. "Most people ask about the red jacket, because the British were redcoats. Fifers and drummers reversed the colors of the regiment," he explained. His is based on a Virginia group whose primary color was blue with some red on their uniforms.
At the Armory, Jim Rhodes, commander of the parade's sponsor, AMVETS Post 1788, thanked those who participated in the parade and those who came to watch it, especially the children.
"That's why we do it is for all you kids," Rhodes said.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews read from the Declaration of Independence and spoke about the importance of the day.
"We can all be proud of this declaration and the need to reaffirm it each year," he said.
Jean Yost, with the Sons of the American Revolution, reminded the crowd that Thursday marked the 225th anniversary of the first July Fourth address in Marietta delivered by Gen. James Mitchell Varnum.
It was another voice from the city's past that closed out the ceremony as David Paige, portraying his ancestor and early Marietta settler Commodore Abraham Whipple, spoke of President John Adams and his dedication to the rule of law that led him to defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, even though he believed in American independence as passionately as anyone.
Then, Paige fired a cannon blast to celebrate the Fourth in a fashion befitting Adams' wishes. In a letter to his wife after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Adams said the day "ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."