Monday, April 28, 2014

Louis Oscar Fried Ceremony

This past Saturday (April 26) I had the privilege and honor to give the invocation and benediction at an event sponsored by the Gretna Historical Society.  It was a wreath ceremony at the monument of Louis Oscar Fried (pronounced "freed"), who died 100 years ago this month.

Fried was a Navy seaman and was among the first casualties of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Veracruz - part of the little-studied or remembered period of the "banana wars."  Fried was the youngest of the seven children of Matthew and Mary (Meisner) Fried of Gretna, and was only nineteen years old when he died on the first day of the battle.  After a long trip home via New York City, his body lay in state at the Jefferson Parish Courthouse (currently Gretna City Hall) on Copernicus Avenue (since renamed Huey P. Long) and was watched over by a Naval Color Guard.

On May 15, 1914, ten thousand people turned out for his burial at Hook and Ladder Cemetery on Lafayette Street in Gretna.  His tomb and monument had been donated by thousands of people giving small offerings to help the family with expenses.  The beautiful marble obelisk is the tallest structure in the cemetery to this day.  This was, and still is, the largest funeral in the history of Gretna.  The day was declared a city holiday for workers and school children, and ferries busily shuttled thousands of mourners across the river from New Orleans.

Pastor Wismar of Salem - Gretna in a 1910 picture, front row, first from the right

The funeral was conducted at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church on 4th Street (where the Fried family were all active members) by my predecessor, the Rev. A Wismar (seen here in 1910, front row, all the way to the right).  Of course, only a fraction of the crowd could be accommodated in the church building.  The procession on foot made its way to the monument at Hook and Ladder, where many of us in turn gathered 100 years later to honor Louis Oscar Fried and to commemorate this unique and extraordinary event in Gretna.  Never before or since has there been such an outpouring of support, compassion, and community solidarity to honor a son of Gretna and to comfort his grieving family.

I would like to thank historian and writer Sevilla Finley for organizing this event and allowing me the privilege to offer the prayers (not to mention for sending me many of these pictures), as well as Paul Coles, president of the Gretna Historical Society for his enthusiastic leadership and tireless devotion to our city and its noble heritage.  Several family members were present to participate in the event, along with Gretna's mayor Belinda Constant and a representative of the president of Jefferson Parish.  Just as was the case a century ago, a Naval color guard was present at the monument (which had also been magnificently cleaned and restored in preparation for the centennial).

Rev. Larry Beane

My invocation follows:

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 
Lord God, heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the privilege to gather here in Your name, in this sacred place, to remember, to ponder, to meditate, and to pay tribute to Your servant Louis Oscar Fried. 
We do so, O Lord, with both sadness and joy, calling to mind the extraordinary events of a hundred years ago that culminated on this very spot. 
We call to mind the shock and the grief suffered by the Fried family, his mother and father, his immediate family and those whose lives were changed with that somber knock at the door and the dreaded words, "We regret to inform you..."  We are reminded of the grief of his church family, his community, his city, state, and nation, mourning for a 19-year old cut down in his promising youth wearing the uniform of his country. 
And yet there is also joy, O Lord, in knowing how this community rallied to comfort the Fried family, how our forbears came together in respect, love, and in patriotic and religious duty, to help this family bear the cross. 
We pray for all those in our current age who are likewise visited by the shock and grief of death: the wages of sin and the consequence of the Fall in Eden.  We pray that we may meet our obligations to those today who have sworn to defend our country and its people.  We pray that our elected officials would only send our young men, and now our young women as well, into harm's way only as a last resort, only after sober reflection, and only in accordance with the Constitution and the Christian principles of just war.  We pray for peace, O Lord, and we pray that current and future generations would take to heart the example of the people of Gretna in 1914 in showing compassion and tribute to a fallen brother. 
Finally, O Lord, we call to mind an earlier April, an earlier death of a young Man, who was likewise laid into a tomb provided for Him by donation, a tomb He left behind empty, giving the promise of the resurrection of the dead.  We await this resurrection , O Lord, with joy, knowing that by the death and resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Louis Oscar Fried and all Your saints will rise again bodily, and we will meet him in the flesh, even as our Savior Jesus Christ has conquered death and atoned for the sins of the world. 
And it is in His name that we pray.  Amen.

Navy color guard

Richard Thalheim, Paul Coles, Michael Smith (left to right)

Pastor Beane

The restored monument

Refreshments at the Gretna Historical Society

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