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Memorial Day Weekend 2020 Is Still Worth Remembering

by on May 26, 2020 5:00 AM

This Memorial Day weekend was unlike any other for most Americans due to the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on our nation. 

No traditional parades this year. No big concerts, group gatherings, or sporting events with fans.  Yes, there was NASCAR and a made-for-TV golf exhibition, but it certainly did not feel like the typical “first weekend of summer” to most.  

I subscribe to a daily inspirational email from former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.  Monday’s message featured an article from current Rutgers assistant football coach Joe Susan. Here is a brief excerpt about what this year’s Memorial Day means from his column:

“The memory of those who have served our country is one that we must never lose. This weekend shouldn’t be the only time that we remember them and thank them for all they have done, all they are doing and all that they will do in the service to this great nation.

"We are involved in a much different war now. The battleground has changed; it is now on our soil. The people on the frontline wear different uniforms in this battle. The Nurses, Doctors, Technicians, Ambulance Paramedics, Truck Drivers, Mail Carriers, Grocery Store Workers, Restaurant Workers, Construction Workers and many others have been called to the front line. Every one of us is a part of this battle.

 The men and women who are at work in the laboratories creating new weapons are critical to victory over an opponent that has many forms. Their drive will bring this enemy to its knees.”

Coach Joe’s message is spot on. Take time to talk with your family and friends about what Memorial Day is really all about. Remember to thank those who serve and think of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. The freedoms that we enjoy have never been “free” and that should be even more apparent during these challenging times.

So how did you choose to celebrate Memorial Day this year? What activities were there to do when you’re essentially still quarantined?

Turns out there are plenty of things to do if you get creative. Yes, there are the quickly tiresome Zoom calls that have at least enabled us to stay in touch with family and friends.  There was yard work to be done (yards in our neighborhood have never looked so good!). I am talking about enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

How many of you took advantage of the “yellow phase” here in most Pennsylvania counties and had the confidence to venture outside? How many of you felt comfortable gathering in groups of 10? 

While I am personally not afraid of the virus, I know many others who are, and I must respect them by following the pandemic guidelines. Likewise, those who are more risk-averse, must respect our willingness to re-engage, provided we follow the rules and show common courtesy and mutual respect. 

So, this Memorial Day weekend we visited family in Danville, the town best known as the home of Geisinger Medical Center. We celebrated my grand-niece Maggie’s kindergarten graduation and had several cookouts and played games. Just what the doctors ordered (my niece Michaelyn and nephew Greg are both docs at Geisinger, so we felt very safe).

While we were there, we enjoyed a round of golf at Frosty Valley Country Club. Playing golf with my three kids is a dream come true, anytime, but especially after being quarantined. 

This is what my wife and I will remember most from the pandemic: the gift of having our adult children home with us for over 2 months.

Golf is my passion and getting to play again has been so cathartic. Watching it is one thing, and playing it on a video game is OK. Getting back outside and playing has been truly therapeutic. Just being outside, breathing fresh air, and enjoying conversations with other people.

We were respectful of the rules, wore our masks and kept our physical distance in the pro shop and parking lot. 

Our son Jonathon (26), essentially plays golf once a year. He is in such great shape from his CrossFit training regimen, and is so athletic, that he comes up with these incredible shots that weekly duffers would drool for. Hitting an accurate three wood off the fairway is considered one of the toughest shots in golf. After I stuck my shot 10 feet away, he hit his within a foot. Take that Dad! 

Jonathon and Ryan (19), won the front nine by three shots but Brianna (27) made a clutch putt at 18 to propel us to sudden death victory on the back nine. We didn’t set any scoring records, and there were no crowds to cheer us on. It was just me and my kids enjoying time together on the tees, greens, fairways, sand traps and trees. A little too much time from the trees but it didn’t dampen our spirits.

When we returned to my Niece’s we watched the conclusion of the Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning vs Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady charity match. Yes, golf is just that important in my life!

On Memorial Day, Ryan and I played at Williamsport Country Club with my nephew Dr. Greg Notz and his friend Rob Lytle. Incredibly relaxing while very competitive. Rob and Greg are very good, low handicap golfers. So, Ryan and Rob took on the Doc and me. The match went all the way to 18. Greg and I squeaked out a one-stroke victory. 

However, it was such a gorgeous day and we were having fun, so Greg and I gave our opponents a chance to win their money back by playing a “one club” playoff.  You must play the entire hole with the same club. I chose a 6 iron. We intended to play one extra hole. Well, we get to the fifth playoff hole, a 130-yard par 3, and surprisingly, we all hit pretty good shots. After Greg and I miss our birdie attempts, Rob, putting with his 5 iron, drains a 10-foot putt for birdie to render the match a draw! We would have kept playing but it was time to head back to Danville (or risk the wrath of the rest of the family). 

I feel blessed that Ryan enjoys golf. He played golf for State High and it is our shared passion. Since golf courses reopened, we have played rounds in State College at Mountain View, Skytop Mountain and the Penn State Courses. Last August Ryan even treated my wife, Heidi, and I to the final round of the Northern Trust PGA tournament at Liberty National Golf Course as a 30th anniversary gift. 

How much do we love golf? During the lockdown, we made our own whiffle golf ball course around our house and created  two 100-yard holes at Haymarket Park. We even played Wii video golf in our basement.

These are challenging times and uncharted waters we are facing. I continue to recommend we “control what we can control” and keep a positive mindset. I think of family and friends, and the freedoms we sometimes take for granted, more often now than ever. I am grateful to be able to pursue my passion and play golf with my kids because others have sacrificed for us. 

We owe it to all the veterans, medical staff, frontline workers and first responders, to make the best of the situation.It’s keeping our hopes alive. It’s visualizing the time when we will be able to travel freely to visit family and friends. 

Until then, let’s all take time to reflect on the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day. Let’s be grateful that we have the chance to spend time with family and friends under a flag of freedom provided in large part to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 



Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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