Clarion Wreaths Across America Conducts Wreath Retirement (01/23/20)

(Above photo) A number of the volunteers who turned out for wreath retirement

A number of folks from around the county turned out on Monday, January 20th for the retirement of the wreaths that were placed on over 1,000 veterans graves in the Clarion Cemetery and Immaculate Conception Cemetery on Second Avenue in Clarion, as part of the nationwide Wreaths Across America program.

From gathering the wreaths, to loading, transporting and unloading, the volunteers did a great job.

Coordinator Noreen Shirey did a great job all year to bring this solemn tribute about and seeing it through. She shared some thoughts on the volunteers, the ceremony this past December, the retirement day and what is planned for next year:

Volunteers Romayne McGinnis, Noreen Shirey, Joan Kriebel, and Bonnie Aaron displaying American Flags, flags of branches of the armed forces and POW/MIA flag.

Romayne McGinnis is the mom of Ross McGinnis local hometown hero, she has helped with spreading the news, on wreath retirement day and is coordinating 3 cemeteries in the Knox area, the St Paul’s Union and Salem Lutheran cemeteries.  She  already has complete sponsorship of over 400 wreaths for this December.

Joan Kriebel is the Clarion Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s regent.  She and the DAR have helped spread the news and helped on Ceremony and Wreath retirement day. Joan plans to coordinate three of older cemeteries in the county.

Bonnie Aaron is a  friend of  20 years. We volunteer with at the Limestone Fire Hall. She has helped me all year long and co-chaired the meeting we had on December 27th. She is coordinating the St. Nicholas Cemetery in Crates and the St. Charles Cemetery in New Bethlehem. Bonnie’s husband Kevin and daughter Kaitlin were there helping for Ceremony Day and Wreath Retirement Day with their truck. Rodney Buzard, a friend from the Limestone Fire Hall, came with his truck on Wreath Retirement Day.

Volunteers loading wreaths on trailer

My son Spencer and my sister in law Lisa Craig have helped all year long with anything I asked.  Lisa and her husband Doug helped by utilizing her Jeep and trailer on Ceremony and Wreath Retirement Day.  

Vanessa Kriebel, a local florist for many years, was a huge help in locating the veterans graves, and in preparing for the ceremony and on Ceremony Day. I couldn’t have done it without her help, along with everyone who has just shown up to be a part of this mission.

Vanessa Kriebel and Noreen Shirey

The kids pictured came from the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and the Clarion Civil Air Patrol, giving their time off from school on Martin Luther King Day.  It only took them about an hour to gather the wreaths and place them along the pavement. 

Two of the young volunteers

Volunteers with pickup trucks and a trailer drove around and picked the wreaths up.  It took longer to haul them to my sister in law’s farm and some went to locals who have goats (goats love them).  When the weather breaks, if the deer haven’t eaten them, we will strip them and take the wire to be recycled, that money can be used to purchase more wreaths for this year’s Wreaths Across America, wreath laying on December 19th. 

Two of the wreaths on veterans’ graves

Last year in Clarion County there were three Wreaths Across America ceremonies,  Clarion, Lucinda and East Brady.  Next year I expect many more. 

Romain McGinnis has three cemeteries covered, Joan Kriebel has 3,and  Bonnie Aaron has two.  Courtney Kirkwood plans to do at least Tylersburg Cemetery where her hometown hero  is buried, brother in law, Thomas J. Kirkwood. Pat Lewis is planning to do both of Strattanville’s Cemeteries. Tracey Cowan is doing Squirrel Hill Cemetery in New Bethlehem and of course Rimersburg which has all 1000 of their wreaths already sponsored!  There is interest also in Frogtown Cemetery and Asbury Cemetery near the Clarion-Limestone School.

Wreaths being unloaded at farm

Currently Clarion and Immaculate Conception Cemeteries only have 48 wreaths sponsored.  The Clarion First United Methodist Church Youth Group is going to be doing a fundraiser, any group is welcome to do this as a fundraiser,  People will have a lot more options this year to sponsor at a participating local cemetery, along with Arlington, Pearl Harbor and Normandy Beach to name a few and $5.00 is earned for every wreath purchased. 

Clarion’s first Wreaths Across America  had a few things that were really special to me. First was how the coaches and scout leaders led by example to remember, honor and teach our kids about our veterans. They helped with, and participated in the ceremony, and they raised money and awareness for WAA.  Some of the highlights for were getting to meet Rick Weaver’s dad and Ross McGinnis’ mom and to know that they were pleased and felt their sons we’re honored meant the world to me. 

Richard Weaver whose son gave his life on the USS Stark

The nicest woman who was with the Rimersburg American Legion and VFW, who did the excellent rifle salute, brought me two of the spent shells and that really touched my heart. She also gave them to the Cub Scouts that led the Pledge of Allegiance. Later on I heard that one Cub Scout, Parker Palmer said that he didn’t want to ever forget that day. He was glad that she had given him those shells and said he would keep them someplace special as a reminder. 

Cub Scouts leading the Pledge of Allegiance

I think for me the best part of the day was when Knox’s Therapeutic Riding Center, Heavenly Gates horse Triton was walked by Joe Fink up Second Avenue during Taps, with Clarion’s Fireman standing in the background. 

Riderless horse

Clarion has always been very patriotic and Wreaths Across America gives communities an opportunity to show their appreciation.

I don’t think that anybody who was there that day will forget how they felt, I know I won’t and I am looking forward to this December.

For more information click on the link below or find us on Facebook  Wreaths Across America Clarion and Immaculate Conception Cemeteries.  contact me via text Noreen Shirey  229-6317

(Thank you Noreen and all those who made this Tribute possible!!!!)

Photos below provide an overview of much of the ceremony, the wreath laying, the wreaths making their arrival in Clarion and some of the background preparations:

Twenty-one gun salute by Rimersburg American Legion and VFW
Some of the members of Clarion Fire & Hose Company No 1, who took part: (L-R) Chris Himes, Doug Preston, Clenn LaForme, Mike Chesterfield, Matt Preston, Scott Sharrar, Justin Galati, Vinnie Dongilli and Jim Thornton
Players pose with Wreaths Across America driver Chuck Andrews and his brother
I-C students and faculty
Volunteers transferring wreaths
Boxes of wreaths being stored