By Ralphine Major
The holiday marks a time to honor those who have died serving their country. A brief look back reminds us of veterans we have lost, though none of them died in service. Still, we recognize their service on Memorial Day. Unlike their fallen comrades, they came home, held jobs, and raised families.
WWII veteran Floyd Sharpe was featured 9-12-11 in “Candy Apples at the Tennessee Valley Fair.” We met “the chief candy apple sticker,” his wife, Lucile (also deceased), and their daughter, Barbara, at cardiac rehab. I learned about the HonorAir program for veterans through Floyd, who contributed to the monument in Washington D.C. but was unable to make the trip for health reasons.
Earl Dunn was pictured in paratrooper gear on the front page of The Focus 5-29-12, “Remembering Earl Dunn, A World War II Veteran.” We met Earl and his wife, Virginia, at cardiac rehab. He worked 41 years at the Y-12 Weapons Plant in Oak Ridge. A most cherished memory for Earl before he passed away was visiting the war memorial in Washington D.C. with HonorAir.
“Enjoying God’s Blessings Each Day” (10-1-12) introduced Focus readers to Mack Neubert. Mack and his wife, Kathy, have been our long-time neighbors and a part of this close-knit community. It was not unusual to hear our dad say he had stopped down the road in the hayfield to talk to Mack Neubert. Mack cherished his family, church, job, and daily blessings. In January, this US Navy veteran passed away.
After our father’s time in the United States Army, he came home and returned to Gibbs High School to finish and get his diploma. Ralph O. Major always credited the late Professor H. G. Loy with encouraging him to graduate. “Love of Country” (5-27-13) shows him wearing his Army uniform.
Though we attended the same church, we first met Jim Turner and his wife, Boots, at cardiac rehab. The Turners came from coal country in West Virginia. Jim often talked “writing” with me and brought me a copy of the West Virginia paper he still received. “Who’s Billy Graham?” (2-6-12) told much about Jim’s early life. Sadly, Jim passed away in March.
Just last week, we lost WWII veterans Sam Benton and Bill Wright. I had first seen Bettye Benton in the church choir and got acquainted with her and Sam at cardiac rehab. The Chattanooga natives were brought together when Sam repaired Bettye’s bicycle. Sam spent most of his 41-year career at Y-12 in Oak Ridge. The Bentons were the “Teenage Sweethearts” on 2-13-12.
On 9-4-12, “Celebrating 70 Years—the Bill Wrights of Corryton” appeared on the front page of The Focus featuring Bill and Georgia Wright with their family. Time and time again, our father would say he had been over at the Wrights talking to Bill and Georgia. This neighbor and WWII veteran and our father had much in common—dairy farming in their early years and raising beef cattle later on. As a teenager at his grandparents’ country store, Perry McGinnis remembers Bill Wright was the first in the neighborhood to buy a new Ford car. Years later, Bill got a white Chevrolet pickup truck. But, Bill was a Ford man and not happy with the truck. Our father bought it and was always so proud to tell everyone that he got his truck from Bill Wright.
On this Memorial Day, may we be ever mindful of all the veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and came home, and those who still wear the uniform today protecting this great country and all the freedoms that we enjoy.