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Historic Lincoln speech sets tone for Thanksgiving feast in Cape Vincent


CAPE VINCENT — Thanksgiving Day speeches, scripted or spur of the moment, often set the tone at gatherings before food fills stomachs.

The Rev. Pierre Aubin delivered one Thursday at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church that hearkened back to when the national holiday was proclaimed on Oct. 3, 1863.

Speaking to a group of about 50 residents who attended the free dinner at the church on Kanady Street, Father Aubin emphasized one particular sentence uttered by Abraham Lincoln during his famous proclamation speech. President Lincoln paid homage to “those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged,” said Father Aubin, quoting directly from the speech.

Father Aubin added: “The war was winding down at the time, and there had been so much killing and suffering. And yet (Lincoln) still manages to call for a day of thanks.”

The rhetoric of President Lincoln, who didn’t belong to a specific religious denomination, seemed especially fit for the occasion: Widows, veterans, older couples and young people all found a warm, inviting place to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving was created in a spirit of compassion for people who are outliers in society, Father Aubin said, or family members who find themselves left behind. In that same spirit, the annual dinner, now in its eighth year, is hosted by volunteers to ensure no one in is left with a feeling of emptiness.

“The idea is it’s mostly people who don’t have people to celebrate with,” he said.

Michael J. Saliby, a bachelor and a village resident for about 10 years, attends each year to volunteer. This year was special because his 81-year-old mother from Andover, Mass., boarded a bus at 7 a.m. to come here. Emily G. Saliby, a first generation Italian-American, smiled as she sat down with a colorful plate of food.

“I only have a twin sister and my mother, and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her. Family is important,” Mr. Saliby said.

“And I love the way God puts handles on food for cretins like me,” he said on a lighter note, wrapping his fingers around the bone of a turkey drumstick. His mother, on the other hand, was more discreet.

“I’ll probably be the last person to finish, because I savor everything,” she said. “But I forgot to have the antipasto first, which is an Italian tradition. ‘Anti’ means before, and ‘pasto’ means repast, or meal.”

Mixing a pot of gravy before dinner was Shirley A. Magboo, who is a widow. Her only son, Christopher W., couldn’t make it home this season. Volunteering helps her fill that family void.

“I’d rather be enjoying this than sitting alone in my apartment,” she said.

Her son is a junior studying tourism and travel services at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I.

“He’s volunteering down there today, too,” she said with pride. “He’s helping underprivileged kids. I miss him, but he’s working full time and is really busy.”

Organizer L. Sam De Long pioneered the dinner eight years ago. As a widow who moved here from Phoenix, Ariz., she noticed a lot of people in the village, like herself, needed somewhere to go.

“We serve people who are alone — and there’s no socioeconomic difference,” she said. “We have people who are wealthy, and those who are less wealthy.”

Donations have replenished funding in a bank account every year since the dinner was launched, she said.

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