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Picnic, ceremony at Fort Niagara to honor Ryan Henderson

by jmaloni
Sat, Jun 18th 2011 07:15 am

Father's Day, Sunday, June 19, will be especially poignant for the family of Ryan Henderson of Lewiston, who was killed in January on Route 104 in an accident involving a hazardous waste truck.

His father, Tim Henderson, reports the family will be holding the Ryan Henderson Memorial Picnic at Fort Niagara State Park, area 3F, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. It will be followed by a special military ceremony inside Old Fort Niagara at 5 p.m. and conclude with the release of Chinese sky lanterns.

"Among his many interests, which included writing songs and performing with the rock band Middleman, Ryan loved to reenact battles and military vignettes at Fort Niagara as a British soldier," says Henderson. He notes that Ryan served as a military interpreter for many years, learning to reload and fire muskets in record time and his favorite exercise was firing the cannons. "No matter how much warning visitors were given the cannon going off always startled them and there were often car alarms that sounded in the parking lot in response to the percussions."

Henderson adds that Ryan toured with his company to other forts around New York state and as far away as Michigan. "The battles always took on an air of authenticity with all the Redcoats marching into battle and firing in unison. He would often point out interesting facts about the British army, such as the only requirement to enlist was that the recruit have two opposing teeth so that he could rip off the top of the paper satchel holding the gunpowder for the charge. Also, the same brilliant red coats that made the soldiers so distinguished looking, also made them excellent targets.

"Ryan's grandfather was born in Scotland, so with Ryan 'serving' in the British army was always a source of humor in our family" said Henderson. "We have a long family tradition of serving in the military, my sister Cathie and I were in Vietnam together and my brother Chris was on a submarine, so Ryan was a natural when it came to wearing a uniform, no matter what side he was fighting on."

The ceremony will begin at Fort Niagara at 5 p.m., Sunday, following the memorial picnic in the park near the lake. Friends are invited to attend and share stories and memories. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be provided along with pop and soft drinks. Bring a dish to pass.

Henderson adds that members of Middleman will be performing acoustic selections during the picnic.

"My dad used to say that we cry because our loved ones aren't here, but we smile because they once were," said Henderson. "Sunday will be a time for smiles."

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