WEST CAPE MAY — Charlotte Daily gave plenty of instructions during her 49 years running the West Cape May Community Christmas Parade.
Everybody knew all requests, all inquiries, began by talking to “the Parade Lady.” Daily, who founded the parade in 1964, was known for keeping order at an event that draws thousands of revelers every December to this small town.
She would walk from one end of the parade route to the other to make sure everything was going smoothly. Daily, who stood just 4 feet 11 inches tall, once stood down an advancing fire truck that was getting to close to the float in front of it, holding up her arm and yelling “Stop.” She was willing to get run over by a fire truck if that’s what it took.
“She always wanted to make sure there was a good spread between the floats and the fire trucks,” said her oldest daughter Victoria Kelly-Kuhn.
So when Daily, who died April 30 at the age of 82, left her final instructions, her loved ones made sure they got it right.
“She wanted to go out on a float. That was her request,” said youngest daughter Becky Daily Horton.
Daily, who had been ill, had a goal of running her 50th parade this December. Instead, she had her 50th on Wednesday at her own funeral procession.
In a coffin, dressed in a colorful Mummers outfit, Daily was lovingly placed on a float by members of the West Cape May Volunteer Fire Co. and taken down the very streets the parade follows every year. The major difference is the final destination was not the Washington Street Mall but Cold Spring Cemetery, though loved ones said Daily is already in Heaven, undoubtedly leading a parade.
The funeral procession was as colorful as one can be.
“My mother would be ecstatic. She loved everything gregarious, colorful and flamboyant,” said Kelly-Kuhn.
The parade left the First Assembly of God Church on Seashore Road and headed right for Broadway, past Daily’s house where her five children, 21 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and three great great-great grandchildren were all required to get “parade fever” every year shortly after Labor Day. That’s when the work began to get ready for the first Saturday in December.
“Mom would start in early September putting cans in stores and going door-to-door for donations. I remember girls coming over and mom sewing with them. The phone was always ringing. People were coming and going. Growing up with the parade was a very exciting time,” Horton said.
The procession also passed Borough Hall where Daily worked as municipal clerk for more than two decades. Workers there came out to see her off Wednesday. Banners, some with religious messages including Daily’s favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31, were displayed.
Daily was a Christian woman who fought all attempts to take Christ out of the Christmas parade. She fought a well-publicized and successful battle in 1998 to keep crosses at borough-owed Wilbraham Park after the Shade Tree Commission argued it violated church and state issues.
The Mayflower descendent also loved her country, and the American flag was a prominent symbol at her final parade. The children waved flags and the coffin sported a picture of Old Glory, a Christian cross and an eagle, which had significance relating to her favorite Bible verse. The float also had a decorated Christmas tree. Kelly-Kuhn said the symbols described “my mom and then some.”
“She raised us very patriotic. She dressed in red, white and blue. She was a Christian and imparted that on all her family. And she loved eagles because of Isaiah 40:31,” said Kelly-Kuhn.
She was also known for bringing the Mummers to the annual parade and would often wear their outfits and dance in the streets.
“She loved the Mummers. It’s a very high honor to be given a Mummers outfit and she had several of them,” said Kelly-Kuhn.
The procession went by the parade judging area at Wilbraham Park, where a holly tree the 4-H group Daily ran planted decades ago was adorned with Christmas lights. Mayor Pam Kaithern said it would be lit all week and turned on every year at the parade to honor Daily’s service to the community.
“Charlotte loved the community and shared that love with everybody through the West Cape May Community Christmas Parade,” said Kaithern.
Just as the funeral procession got to the parade grounds, the skies began to open up. Normally there is nothing worse for a parade than rain. In this case, as the rain fell on the blossoming cherry trees and flower beds at Wilbraham Park, it seemed fitting.
“The rain is tears of joy. Here she comes,” said Donna Thompson, a friend of Daily’s granddaughter Cassie Brasch.
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