BUFFALO, N.Y. – The commander of the 107th Mission Support Group of the New York National Guard’s 107th Attack Wing honored the nation’s 13th president, Millard Fillmore, on his 221st birthday with a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave.
Col. Steven Hefferon, representing President Donald Trump, placed a wreath from the White House on Fillmore’s grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery on Jan. 7.
A wreath from the current president is placed on the graves of former presidents on their birthdays by members of the U.S. military. The New York National Guard also honors Presidents Chester Arthur, who is buried outside Albany, and Martin Van Buren, who is buried in Kinderhook.
The simple wreath is adorned in red, white and blue, with a card marked “The President.”
Hefferon laid the wreath quietly without the usual congregation of representatives of various organizations started and sponsored by Fillmore. This year the event was canceled due to New York State COVID-19 social distancing guidance.
“Although it was disappointing to hear the event to commemorate Millard Fillmore’s birthday was canceled,” said Hefferon, “I am glad the 107th Attack Wing did their part to ensure the former president was honored in usual form.”
The 107th has represented the president in honoring Fillmore for more than three decades.
“The pandemic wasn’t going to stop us from recognizing President Fillmore’s legacy and contributions to our nation, state, and the Buffalo region,” added Hefferon.
A Buffalo native, Fillmore immersed himself in the inner workings of the community and was a part of writing the charter that incorporated Buffalo as a city in 1832. He also helped to found such institutions as the Buffalo Historical Society, which today includes the Buffalo History Museum and Tifft Nature Preserve, in 1862.
“His contributions to the Western New York’s educational, cultural and medical arenas were enormous and long-lasting,” Hefferon said.
Fillmore became vice president to Zachary Taylor in 1849 while serving as the first chancellor of the University at Buffalo. Upon the sudden death of President Taylor in 1850, Fillmore was sworn in on July 9 of that year.
After his presidency, Fillmore lived out the remainder of his life in Buffalo with his wife, Caroline, supporting every cause they could.
He died on March 8, 1874, and his funeral was attended by hundreds of people, including three U.S. senators.
“Laying the wreath to commemorate his birthday was truly an honor,” said Hefferon, “and I hope we continue to pay homage to this local trailblazer who dedicated his life to selflessly serving the citizens of our nation.”