During the first Friday of every month local veterans get together at the Hopkinton Senior Center to have breakfast, socialize and recall memories. HCAM News stopped by the December breakfast and Senior Center volunteer Ronnie Bilodeau described the "missing comrade" table that is set up for each gathering to honor prisoners of war or pay tribute to comrades who have passed way.
A display on the table describes the tradition: "The table is set with a white tablecloth, a black napkin, a white candle and a plate with only a slice of lemon and salt with an empty chair leaning against the table. The tradition was started by a group of fighter pilots who flew in Vietnam known as the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. also known as the the river rats of Vietnam. Other branches of the military soon picked up on the tradition of setting a remembrance table when units or commands gather for dinners and reunions."
Also at the December breakfast, event organizer Henry Allessio paid tribute to Navy Veteran Ken McDonald who was tragically killed at the age of 73, two days before thanksgiving after being struck by a car in Natick. Allessio talked about how Ken worked to restore the Boston Post Cane (a tradition started in 1909 by the "Boston Post" newspaper and still takes place in Hopkinton, in which a cane is given to the oldest resident in the town). Allessio described Ken as someone that would always help others; "he really had a life driven by many great works". Ken's neighbor for over 30 years Bob Letendre was also in attendance at the breakfast and recalled memories of living next to Ken; "he's sorrily going to be missed, he was a great fella."
To read more about Ken McDonald: http://www.hcam.tv/news/ken-mcdonald-73