BEVERLY — As a sailor stationed in New York City during the Korean War, Arnold Doucette marched in Memorial Day parades with thousands of people lining the route.
The marching continued when he got out of the Navy and returned to his native East Boston, and later when he moved to Beverly.
But Doucette, who is 84 and has two bad knees, found himself on the sidelines for the last few years on Memorial Day, physically unable to walk the mile-long parade route from the Herman A. Spear American Legion Post to the Veterans Memorial at Odell Park near the train station.
“I’d march if I can, but right now I’m using two canes,” he said. “That sort of limits me a little bit.”
Doucette won’t have to worry about missing the parade this year. For perhaps the first time since the city began marking Memorial Day after the Civil War, the Memorial Day events in downtown Beverly won’t include a parade.
Organizers have decided to cancel the parade because many of the aging veterans can no longer march. Instead, veterans will report straight to Odell Park for the ceremony, which is scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Beverly Veterans Services Agent Jerry Guilebbe said only about 25 veterans took part in the parade last year, while four times as many went directly to the park.
“Last year I ended up sticking about eight guys in the National Guard trucks just to get them down there,” said Guilebbe, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran who has knee problems of his own. “I love the parade, but I’d rather see 400 of us down there as a group to keep the tradition going.”
Guilebbe said the ceremony at the park has been well-attended in recent years, with crowds in the range of 300 to 400. But very few of those people lined the parade route, preferring instead to go directly to the park.