Clarion County Wreaths Across America Joins With Others Throughout Nation To Honor Deceased Veterans

Photos courtesy of: Clarion -I-C – Mindi Verdill, Shelly Rhoades, Scott DiTullio, and Dave Cyphert (provided by Clarion County WWA, from webcast); St. Joseph’s – Noreen Shirey; Rimersburg – Laurie Hughes; Knox – Robin Shick, Laura Sleppy Moon, Dan Wise

Clarion County Wreaths Across America joined with other WWA groups across the U.S. to honor deceased Veterans, on Saturday (December 19th) and Sunday (December 20th), with solemn Patriotic ceremonies and wreath layings.

Brett Carrier provided the National Anthem and Taps at Clarion

A number of events were scheduled throughout the county, with a huge increase in the number of cemeteries covered, under the Clarion County Wreaths Across America “umbrella,” headed by County Coordinator Noreen Shirey.

(Photo by Laurie Hughes) VFW Post 7132 and American Legion Post 454 at the Rimersburg Ceremony

There were twenty-three cemeteries covered this year, up from three last year. Noreen mentioned that she hopes for even more participation next year. And to that end, there will be a special informational meeting at the Limestone Fire Hall, on Tuesday, December 29th at 6:30 PM. Anyone interested in getting involved in this great cause, are encouraged to attend.

Knox Coordinator Romayne McGinnis

Some of the cemeteries covered this year included the Clarion, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph’s, ten Rimersburg area cemeteries. Wreaths were also placed at the Sligo cemetery, as well as, ten cemeteries in the Knox area. Also a number of cemeteries in the East Brady area and across the Allegheny River into Brady’s Bend and other Armstrong County locations, was handled by the East Brady American Legion.

Wreath Laying at St. Joseph’s

There was a ceremony for Clarion, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph’s, at the top of the knoll at the Second Avenue site, at noon on Saturday, with the wreath placing following the ceremony. A follow-up ceremony and wreath placing was held at St. Joseph’s on Sunday.

Bonnie Aaron was the Greeter at Saturday’s ceremony, with Noreen conducting program. The National Anthem and Taps were played by Brett Carrier.

Leading the Pledge of Allegiance were: Samuel Smail and Micah Henry. Reverend Deryl Larsen gave the invocation.

Central Clarion Wildcats at Clarion

Those participating in ceremonial wreath laying included: Jim Delaney – for the U.S. Navy; retired Master Sgt. David Hartley – for the U.S. Army; Brandon Brinker – for the U.S. Merchant Marines; Kevin Allen – for the U.S. Air Force; Catherine Cunningham – for the U.S. Coast Guard; Scott and Mary Rearick – for of the U.S. Marines; Jacob Smith – for the U.S. POW and MIA; and Cameron, Trey, and Tanner Kirkwood – placing the POW/MIA chair In memory of their uncle Thomas “TJ” Kirkwood Retired Army.

Speakers included: Donna Oberlander, Pennsylvania House Representative for the 63rd District; Clarion Mayor Brett Whitling; and Richard Weaver – Father of Rick Weaver who was killed on the USS Stark.

Riderless Horse led along Second Avenue by Kira Lynne Hilliard

Kira Lynne Hilliard  – a US Air Force Veteran, led riderless horse Triton, owned by Monique Nellis of Heavenly Gaits Therapeutic Riding Center of Knox along second avenue as Brett Carrier played Taps.

After Noreen shared some closing thoughts, Reverend Monty Sayers delivered the Benediction.

David Hartley US Army Special Forces

Social distancing was maintained during the wreath laying with the help of members of Clarion Fire & Hose Company No 1, who directed the participants.

About the event, Noreen mentioned, “Let it be said that Brandon and Brandy Brinker came from New Bethlehem especially for the ceremony, an honorable mention could be noted that Brandon’s brother, Matt was both a US Marine and a US Navy Seal. He was a highly accomplished marksman and soldier who is very much missed by his family.

“Today was amazing and humbling. I could not have done this without Michael Chesterfield and all of the Clarion Fireman, Lisa Shirey Craig, Kevin Allen, Shari Buchkovich Allen, Vanessa Kriebel, Spencer Shirey and Bonnie Aaron. Not only today, but anytime I asked. To Shelly L. Rhoades and First United Methodist Church youth, and Nickie Bellotti-Irwin  and Dave and Hope Eggleton and the Central Clarion Wildcats.

Richard Weaver, father of Rick Weaver

“… the Youth in clarion were amazing! The really made Mr. Weaver emotional. He was really impressed as was I. Monique Nellis of Heavenly Gaits TRC with Triton and Kira Hillyard were perfect. Civil Air Patrol was unable to participate at the last minute due Covid but they came with their parents in civies and helped immensely. Brett Carrier sounded amazing doing the National Anthem and Taps.

“Clarion Youth Proud America Strong.”

Noreen had this to say about the event at St. Joseph’s, “A nice crowd turned out to lay wreaths on Sunday at St Joseph’s Cemetery. Anne Ochs and Jerry Wolbert were a big help in me taking this on at the the last minute. Veterans in the crowd placed the ceremonial wreaths. I re-read the speech from Saturday. Anne Ochs plans to be coordinator next year. Some Wildcats also helped.”

Ceremonial Wreaths at St. Joseph’s

As to the county-wide participation, Noreen said, “So this year we did Clarion County Proud. With ten cemeteries in the Knox Area and 10 Rimersburg Area Cemeteries and two in Clarion and St. Joseph’s in Lucinda. Last year Clarion County had 3 participating cemeteries, with about 1255 wreaths and this year we had twenty-three participating cemeteries with approximately 2779 wreaths, more than double. Nationally, we dropped in wreaths sales from over two million to only one million this year due to Covid. Clarion was not the norm, we excelled.”

Knox Freedom Riders at Rimersburg Ceremony

Rimersburg Coordinator Tina Flick share her thoughts on their events:

The Rimersburg Cemetery Association had a well attended Wreaths Across America Ceremony. This Ceremony was held Saturday December 19th at noon at the Rimersburg Cemetery. 

Wreaths at Rimersburg

Our sponsors were: Major Event Sponsor – VFW Post #7132; Diamond Level Sponsor – Knox Legion Riders 720; Gold Level Sponsors – American Legion #454, United Methodist Church in Memory of the Late Darrell Shick, Union PTO; and Silver Level Sponsor – Haws Ricker Insurance.

We placed 1161 wreaths, not only in Rimersburg, but also in ten local cemeteries. These cemeteries include Old Seceder, the Rimersburg Mausoleum, Bethesda, Lawsonham, Randolph, Concord, Independent, Cherry Run United Presbyterian Church, Grandview and Mt. Hope. 

Tom Kennedy , President of the Rimersburg Cemetery said ” I am Impressed with  how quickly we received the contributions to buy all the wreath. The support  from the area was above and beyond.” 

“I am proud to be part of a community that comes together to celebrate the our veterans. We live in the most patriotic town I know. It was not a hard decision to bring this to Rimersburg. The residents and organizations of Rimersburg came together and raised enough money in just 12 days to purchase all the wreaths for this years ceremony.”

Tina also mentioned, “From December 19, 2020 until January 15, 2021 the Wreaths Across America will  once again be offering their buy one get one free event. Wreaths are $15 each. You can mail a check written out to the Rimersburg Cemetery to PO Box 193, Rimersburg, PA 16248 or contact Tina Flick at 814-229-9297 to purchase your wreaths or participate in a sponsorship.”

Tina also serves as Clarion County Chair of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Bagpiper at Knox Ceremony

Romayne McGinnis, Gold Star Mother of Medal of Honor Recipient Ross A McGinnis, the Knox Area Coordinator Shared: “I would like to express my thanks and gratitude for all the people who helped throughout the year. A lot of help is needed to pull off an event this size, and everyone stepped forward.

Veteran saluting at Knox

“I was amazed at the participation on Saturday, for this first time event in Knox and was extremely proud of our families and volunteers in honoring our veterans of all wars.

First United Methodist Youth Group volunteers at Clarion

“Believe it or not, I am looking forward to next year.

“Say their name and they will not be forgotten.”

Brendan Moon at the St. Paul’s Union Cemetery with the St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in the background
Participants at the Brick Church Cemetery in Richland Township
Wreath being placed on grave at the Brick Church Cemetery in Richland Township
Salem Lutheran Church

Thanks to all who contributed comments and photos for this article.

Clarion Sports Zone encourages everyone to get behind this great, patriotic effort!!!!