VERGENNES – When asked why he was chosen to be the marshal for next Monday’s big Memorial Day parade in Vergennes, Edgar Crosby Jr. – known to all as “Bub” – replied that he really had no idea.
What does a parade marshal do?
“Sit in a car and wave to people,” Bub said.
Are you qualified for this?
Nonetheless, event organizers at American Legion Post 14 in Vergennes chose the Vietnam-era Air Force veteran to lead their parade — traditionally one of Vermont’s longest — despite his protests.
“At first I said no, I’m not a public figure,” Crosby told the Independent. “I’ve always been a bit under the wire; I don’t like publicity, I just like doing good.
Oh, there it is. Surely the parade organizers knew about Bub Crosby – that he likes to do good.
For years, decades, perhaps his entire adult life, Crosby had given himself to his family, his company’s customers and his community.
He was made a life member of the Bridport Fire Department after serving the organization for 20 years. He not only fought fires in his hometown as a pump operator, but he also taught other firefighters how to operate pump equipment while fighting fires. Far from the limelight, he served as the department’s treasurer “forever,” in his own words.
And he also served Bridport for many years as a member of its planning commission. The town dedicated the 2014 Bridport Town Report to Crosby, noting not only his volunteerism, but also his “easy and pleasant manner with everyone”.
In 2018, the Lions Club presented Crosby with a Melvin Jones Fellowship Award for community service. In particular, he was credited with reviving Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7823 in Middlebury. A member of Legion Post 27 in Middlebury, Crosby was most active in the VFW, where he served as a commander, administrator, and still serves as a quartermaster. He and others are credited with reviving the post five years ago when many feared it would close.
Crosby has been a lifelong history buff, and he and Meg, his wife of 47 years, have spent decades collecting postcards and pictures from Vermont’s past. And he didn’t just look at the images, he studied them and learned their history and the stories around the images they showed. He organized the old footage into albums with one for each town in Addison County, plus a few for towns in Rutland County as well. Ten years ago, Bub and Meg donated a treasure trove of old photos and postcards to the Maritime Museum of Lake Champlain, where they reside for all to see in the Crosby Collection.
Many people across the county know Crosby as the owner, along with Meg, of Bub’s Furniture Barn in Vergennes for 25 years, until they sold the business in 2014 and moved to a cabin at Middlebury’s Lodge in the Otter Creek retirement community. Crosby recounts how he did business in Vergennes for 50 years – working in the barn as a young man and with his father’s cattle-selling business.
Perhaps the most obvious service Crosby has given to the community is his service in the United States Army, which began in 1968 when he volunteered for the Air Force. He was an active duty airman until 1972 and spent two more years in the reserve.
After learning avionics during his first six months in the military, Crosby got his permanent assignment.
“I joined the Air Force to see the world; I was sent to Loring Air Force Base in Maine,” he recalls. “It’s as far north as you can go.”
Kidding aside, there were a lot of things he loved about the Air Force. He made lifelong friends from all walks of life, of all ethnicities, “Everyone was in the same crucible together,” he said. “It was a great experience, I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.”
Although based in Maine, Crosby was sent on temporary assignments throughout Southeast Asia – Okinawa, Guam, Taiwan, the Philippines. He was an avionics technician and repaired B-52 aircraft – on the ground and in the air.
“It was quite an experience for a farm boy from Vergennes,” Crosby said.
He had his longest stay in Thailand, where he was officially recognized for his service in the Vietnam Theater. But Crosby clarifies that he was not in the middle of the fighting.
“I’ve done two tours, one of which was in a combat theater, but I’ve never been a combat vet,” he insisted.
Although he keeps his parade marshal responsibilities in perspective – “I can wear my Air Force uniform, but I had to buy a new one because my old one didn’t fit me” – Crosby said the Memorial Day itself was important to him.
“Oh, it’s always been important; I am a veteran. Veterans realize what this day is for, and it’s not about picnics and beer parties.
“It’s a celebration of the sacrifices we’ve all made.”
Although he never fought, Crosby still suffers from his military service. He was around the dastardly chemical known as Agent Orange at his base in Thailand, and the Parkinson’s disease that afflicts him is attributed to exposure to this chemical. He knows that he is not the only veterinarian who suffers from such infirmities.
After two years of the coronavirus pandemic keeping people apart, Crosby is happy to see the parades return this month.
“It’s good to get everyone together again,” he said. “Society has been fractured by this thing. People don’t visit like they used to; they are skeptical, hesitant, I think people are alone.
“I think we are working to get out of this – slowly – but this damage has been done socially and economically.”
And there is always Memorial Day, the day to remember our war dead, the day to remember the ultimate sacrifices of all those men and women who have gone before us.
“People should think about it; Memorial Day and Veterans Day as well,” Crosby said. “Take a minute and consider what people have given up and endured.
“It’s nice to have a good time, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But set aside some time to think about the real reasons why we celebrate Memorial Day.