One of towns most iconic figures will lead the way during the Camden Memorial Day Parade thanks to a chance conversation with the town's police chief.

Kert Ingraham, the “Waving Man” of Sixty Three Washington Street, will be riding alongside of Camden Police Officer Allen Weaver to lead off the 2015 Memorial Day Parade, according to Police Chief Randy Gagne.

Gagne was making his rounds on the morning of May 14, when he stopped to talk with Ingraham.

“I always give him a flash of the lights and always get a big smile. When I went into the office I threw out the idea of inviting Kert to ride along with Camden PD in the lead car for the Memorial Day Parade. As you can expect the idea was a hit. I drove back up and asked Kert if he would give us the honor of having him riding shotgun for the parade with Officer Allen Weaver another proud veteran (United States Army),” Gagne wrote on his Facebook page.

His post went on to say, “I can't explain the look in his eye or the feeling I got when he reached to shake my hand and said he would be honored.“

Weaver said May 18 the chief had sent him a text message asking if he would like to have Kert [Ingraham], a World War II veteran, ride along with him to lead the parade.

“I told chief I would be honored to have him with me,” Weaver said. “I am a veteran myself and I feel that there is no greater honor than to have Kert in the cruiser on that special day.”

Weaver said the look on Ingraham's face when he dropped off a Camden Police shirt was "amazing" and made him feel even more proud because his grandfather was also a WWII veteran.

“For me it is a great way to connect with a vanishing generation,” Weaver said. “My grandfather was a WWII veteran and in a way it makes me proud to be able to give another veteran such a sense of pride.”

On Monday, May 25, there is a ceremony at the public landing at 9 a.m., followed by the parade at 9:30 a.m. The parade begins at Route 1 and John Street with stops at the Conway Monument, Village Green and "Wall of Names" as well as Harbor Park's Civil War statue. A ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery is scheduled to begin at approximately 10:15 a.m.

In case of inclement weather, a combined Camden and Rockport ceremony will take place at Camden Hills Regional High School at 11 a.m.

When Ingraham first moved to Sixty Three Washington Street, a no smoking policy led him to the side of the road to enjoy a smoke. Over the years his habit has changed and Ingraham relies on an electric, smokeless cigarette to curb his desire. However, he still continues to make the trip to the sidewalk when weather permits to wave to passersby.

In a 2012 article in The Camden Herald, Igraham spoke about everything from dating Kimberley, a Radio City Rockette, to years working in the funeral business. Ingraham has no shortage of stories to tell.

He was born in Aroostook County and his story began in Sherman's Mills, digging potatoes at age 12.

Ingraham joined the U.S. Army Air Corps after graduating from high school and headed to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, knowing already that he wanted to work on military aircraft. The skill set of a farm boy in Maine seemed a reasonable foundation for learning the trade of working on warplanes.

After completing basic training, he attended two separate aircraft schools in Biloxi, Miss. and was eventually stationed in Kansas, spending time at two Air Force bases. In 1943 he left Kansas and made the pilgrimage to Alaska, where he spent the better part of a year working on Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. The four-engine, propeller-driven bombers were considered some of the most advanced warplanes of their time. Ingraham said only one of the 15 gargantuan planes fit in the designated hangar space, forcing the men to work on the planes outdoors.

"They said 'where would you like to go?'" Ingraham recalled. "I said 'someplace warm,' and they sent me to Fairbanks!"

Ingraham speculated in the 2012 article, the purpose of working in Alaska was to test the B-29s for cold weather performance. His supervisor was aboard Enola Gay when the infamous "little boy" Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Following his military years, Ingraham was trained as an embalmer at the New England School of Embalming in Boston and upon graduating he returned to Maine, working at funeral home in Augusta for four years. Around 1952 he purchased the still-operational Green Lawn Memorial Funeral Home in Bangor, and soon acquired a second funeral home in Carmel.

After close to a decade in the funeral business, he sold it and took a job at a funeral home in Hartford, Conn. A short time later, a neighbor who manufactured refrigerated store displays noticed his mechanical proficiency and offered him a job traveling and working on refrigeration units.

Courier Publications reporter Dwight Collins can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at dcollins@villagesoup.com.