There were plans for Wilfred Burkitt to lead the annual Memorial Day Parade in Madison this year, but the World War II veteran never knew it.
Burkitt's oldest daughter, Lynn Welsch, said parade organizers told her they planned to rope him into the role at the last minute because they knew the 95-year-old Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient would have resisted the recognition.
"He would have said, 'No, no, no, no, no,'" Welsch said. "He didn't know that."
Burkitt died Thursday after a short illness, and Mayor Bob Conley held a moment of silence in his honor at the start of Monday's Madison Borough Council meeting. The funeral service was Monday.
Burkitt was "not only a true hero and great representative of Madison, but one of the best neighbors you could ever have," Conley said. "I lived right next to him."
"We were hoping to have him lead our Memorial Day Parade, but we will certainly give him another recognition on Memorial Day," the mayor said.
Burkitt, who served in the Army as a corporal in the 12th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, was proud of his military service, and flew the flag often, Welsch said. A relative recorded an interview with him about his war experiences and a DVD of that interview could be added to Library of Congress, she said.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Olive Burkitt, and their four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was born in Irvington and lived in Madison more than 60 years.
Welsch said Burkitt loved his family, working in his yard and garden, fishing, and playing harmonica, which he did at his 95th birthday. He had a great sense of humor, and loved all his neighbors, she said.
Welsch now lives in New Mexico, but remembers going to Madison's parades as a child and said her father loved them.
"That would have been so cool," she said of Burkitt leading the parade. "It was very nice for them to be working on that."