Memorial Day Services Held

Friday, May 31, 2013
Taking part in the wreath placement ceremony during the Memorial Day services at the Piggott Cemetery Sunday were, from left: John Harmon, Ed Thompson and Charles Wright. (TD photo/Laura Cole)

Memorial services were held at cemeteries across the country this past weekend, as Memorial Day was marked for 2013.

Locally, there were a number of observances including the traditional local services which also included business meetings for their respective cemetery association's.

The gently rolling hills of Woodland Heights Cemetery in Rector served as a beautiful, yet somber, setting for honoring the men and women who have given so much in defense of America during Sunday's special Memorial Day service.

Veterans Glendal Beckley and Frank Niederkorn salute the flag during Sunday's service at Woodland Heights Cemetery

Small United States flags were placed alongside the graves of the 778 veterans laid to rest at Woodland Heights. The bright red, white and blue markers swayed with the intermittent breeze, further drawing in the eyes of all who scanned the lovely surroundings. A living sentiment of respect and appreciation emanated from those who visited the event. The flags were placed by Jill Wynn of Rector High School and several student volunteers prior to the special weekend service.

Rector Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10480 Commander Tommy Huggins welcomed those gathered to the memorial. Huggins, who also serves as Clay County Veteran Services Officer, thanked those present for attending. He noted the number of attendees was down, with around 40 present, adding he hoped those not at the event would be remembering the men and women who have served in the past and continue to fill the ranks of the military to this day.

Mace Straubel, pastor of Rector First United Methodist Church, spoke to the crowd following the playing of Lee Greenwood's "Proud To Be An American." Straubel began by saying he felt "humble to be around these veterans." He continued, noting "we all know we have a rich liberty" as Americans. One of the most important liberties, he noted, was the freedom "to believe in God." Straubel urged those present to appreciate and make use of these freedoms while respecting those who have sought to preserve them.

Special guest speaker U.S. Army (ret.) LTC Frank Niederkorn, chief of police at the John J. Pershing Veterans Administration Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, has visited Rector many times during celebrations such as this.

"Memorial Day is a time of remembrance and reflection," Niederkorn said. "Here at Woodland Heights Cemetery we can see, and even trace with our fingers, the names of these veterans who risked their lives for this country and the ideals we hold dear."

One of Rector's most respected veterans, Glendal Beckley, provided the opening prayer for the service. Beckley, who serves the Rector VFW as Chaplain, served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, participating in combat in the Pacific Theater. He was part of a force which escorted Gen. Douglas MacArthur on his return to the Phillipines, and earned two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for his efforts during WWII.

The memorial service featured a military salute, with soldiers from Det 1 Company A 2/153 Infantry firing in tribute. The playing of TAPS and a closing prayer by Straubel concluded the ceremony.

A brief update on behalf of the cemetery committee was presented by Teresa Roofe. Roofe expressed thanks to groundskeeper Brad Weber and his sons, Mitchell and Reed, for their efforts in maintaining the beautiful Woodland Heights Cemetery. She also thanked Nate Henderson for serving as chairperson for the Labor Day Picnic in recent years, which serves as a fundraiser for the cemetery, in addition to all who volunteer at the annual event.

Roofe noted the committee currently has $49,938.78 in an interest bearing checking account at Liberty Bank of Arkansas. The WHCC has four CDs, totaling over $458,000.

Memorial Day 2013 was marked with the traditional service in the historic and scenic Piggott Cemetery Sunday, May 26. The annual mid-afternoon gathering serves to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives for their country, and includes the yearly business meeting of the Piggott Cemetery Association.

Under sunny skies Association President Sharon Tillman welcomed those on hand. She then introduced young Ty Winchester who sang "God Bless the U.S.A.", and the "Star Spangled Banner." Ty is the son of Justin Winchester, grandson of Diane Winchester and great-grandson of Barbara Alexander--all of Piggott.

Bro. Gary Laughlin then offered the opening prayer, followed by the annual Memorial Day sermon, "Appreciate the God-Given Freedom That We Have."

This year the memorial wreath was placed by local VFW members John Harmon, Ed Thompson and Charles Wright. The ceremony also included a stirring performance of "Taps" by Chris Book of the PHS Marching Mohawk band.

The afternoon's activities also included the annual business meeting, with Secretary-Treasurer Mona Scott giving the financial report. She indicated the Piggott Cemetery Association had a bank balance of $4,697.38 along with five CD's with a balance of $358,061.66.

Board member Gloria Crittenden has completed her term, and selected to replace her was Bobbie Hughes Johnson. The other board members include Tillman, Laura Cole, Scott Hartwell, Jeff Benbrook and Chris Roberts.

The board then held election of officers for the coming five years, with Hartwell elected president, Benbrook as vice president and Scott was elected to continue as secretary-treasurer.

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