Clarion County Joins Nation In Solemn Wreaths Across America Tribute On Saturday (December 18th)

(Above image: Clarion County Wreaths Across America Coordinator Noreen Shirey at the podium. Wreaths to be placed for various branches of service and POW-MIA on table.)

Saturday, December 18th was Wreaths Across America Day and Clarion County came out in a big way in this solemn observance of deceased Veterans.

I attended the Ceremony and Wreath laying in Clarion, at the Clarion and Immaculate Conception Cemeteries. The Ceremony included Clarion and Immaculate Conception, along with Tylersburg, New Rehobeth, Frogtown, Seceder, Strattanville Memorial, Strattanville Centenial, Limestone, Churchville, Licking, Fisher Methodist and Fisher Presbyterian. After the Clarion Ceremony the others held Wreath Layings at their Cemeteries.

There were a number of other ceremonies at Cemeteries in and around Clarion County. A number of comments and photos from some of those are included in this article.

(Pastor Raafat Gingus giving the Invocation)

The Wreaths Across America project, which is dedicated to placing wreaths on the graves of every veteran. This event, which began in 1992 is held “each December, on National Wreaths Across America Day . . . is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 3,000 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad”.

Noreen Shirey welcomed those representing the various cemeteries and others gathered. Pastor Raafat Girgis of the New Rehobeth Greenville and Pisgah Presbyterian Churches gave the Invocation.

(Clarion Civil Air Patrol presented the colors)

Then the Posting of the Colors was performed by the Clarion Civil Air Patrol, with Erin Lewis singing the National Anthem. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Boy Scout Troop #51.  

Courtney Kirkwood placed the The POW/ MIA chair, along with her sons.. 

There was a Ceremonial Wreath Laying for the various branches of the service and POW and MIA.

Those placing the wreaths included: Mary Wilson – for the U.S. Navy, Anthony Terrana – for the U.S. Army, Derek Oberlander – for the U.S. Marines, Heather Nulph – for the U.S. Air Force, Gabrielle Miller – for the U.S. Space Force, Dave Hauser – for the U.S. Coast Guard, Valerie DeCorte – for the U.S. Merchant Marines and Eric Vinson – for the U.S. POW and MIA.

(Clarion County Sheriff elect and longtime Clarion Borough Police Officer, Shawn Zerfoss at the podium, fellow speaker, US Army Veteran Lenny Bashline in back)

Speakers included Sheriff elect and longtime Clarion Borough Police Officer Shawn Zerfoss, US Army Veteran Lenny Bashline and Richard Weaver – Father of Rick Weaver, who gave his life in the attack on the USS Cole.  

Erin Lewis led the gathering was led in singing “God Bless America.”

(Erin Lewis sang the National Anthem and led “God Bless America.” Speaker Richard Weaver on far right)

After Noreen shared some closing thoughts, A-C Valley Band Director Scott DiTullio played TAPs, while Air Force Veteran, Diana Hillyard led Triton, the Riderless Horse, along Second Avenue. Triton is owned by Monique Nellis of Heavenly Gaits Therapeutic Riding Center.  

(Diana Hillyard – leading Triton along Second Avenue)

Retired Reverend Nancy Zahn gave the Benediction.

Then the wreaths were placed at the Veterans’ graves.

(Frogtown- Nevin Chapel Coordinator Paul Stahlman and A-C Valley Music Director Scott DiTullio)

Chuck Andrews, the Wreaths Across America’s truck driver who distributed to Clarion, I-C and a number of other cemeteries in the area passed along these nice words: please somewhere place a big, huge Thank You to everyone who showed up to welcome Joe’s truck and myself and thanks for all the awesome gifts truly amazing and appreciated!!

Comments from various individuals handling Wreaths Across America events in the area:

Noreen Shirey – Clarion County WWA Coordinator:

I think things went really well. I was pleased so many showed up in the bad weather.  For adding 6 cemeteries in the last month it was a real testament to how much this mission means to Clarion County.  People want to include more cemeteries and be able to honor their own veterans, and are contacting me to get information, we are all working together to make this happen.  We are already making plans for next December.   

(Grave of a Civil War Veteran, in Clarion Cemetery.)

We are looking for groups who want to do fundraise for this mission, which is on-going throughout the year.  Groups earn $5.00 per each wreath.  1825 veterans currently in just the 13 cemeteries I do.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this year a sucess!

(Participants laying wreaths in Clarion)

Jerry Wolbert – St. Joseph’s Lucinda Committee Member: The 2021 Wreaths across America was held at St Joseph Church. The event was held in the social hall with a full room of people attending.

(Image by Meghan Sibble: Service Branches and POW/MIA Wreaths, with participants laying Wreaths at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Lucinda)

Program Coordinator was Anne Ochs along with committee members Mary Lutz, Judy Wolbert and Jerry Wolbert.

(Image by Meghan Sibble: St. Joseph’s Ceremony: Ceremonial Wreath Presentation: (Left to Right) Lois Ochs retired military, Owen Vincent, Jennifer Schmader who was in the service, and daughter Olivia. Owen Vincent held the new Space Force Program.)

Guests were treated to a slide show of area veterans, also on display were actual uniforms along with Service Medals and newspaper clippings. Keynote speaker was Command Sergeant Major Timothy Nicewonger of the Pennsylvania State Police.

(Image by Meghan Sibble: Left to right Jennifer Schmader and daughter Olivia, Leroy Ochs, Samuel Ochs. Each branch of service was honored.)

Corporal Nicewonger is also a veteran of the United States Army. Taps was played by Rachael Bendal. Also participating was the Farmington Township Fire Company. There was even a surprise visit from Santa Claus who gave a special blessing too.

All the wreaths before they were placed on the grave sites.

Anne Ochs – St. Joseph’s Lucinda Coordinator: It was an honor to do this for our veterans. They give and sacrifice so much for our freedom as well as others freedom. So very thankful for my team of helpers and all those who sponsored wreaths and all who attended our program in honor of our veterans.

Remember Honor. And to each of our veterans. Thank you for all you do. Merry Christmas!

(Image by Meghan Sibble: Cub Scout Owen Wilson giving the Cub Scout Salute at one of the graves at St. Josephs)

Kim Beham – East Brady and Brady’s Bend Area Coordinator: Our WAA ceremony was held inside due to the rain. The parents and kids that helped place the wreaths didn’t let the rain stop them. Members of American Legion Post 488 places over 900 flags on veterans’ graves at approximately 17 cemeteries in May.

(Image by Kim Beham: Service Branch and POW/MIA Wreaths during East Brady Ceremony)

My goal would be to get local churches, community organizations, and locals to help raise enough money to place a wreath on every gravesite that we place flags on.

(Image by Kim Beham: Frank Beham and son Trace placing wreath at East Brady)
(Image by Kim Beham: Melinda Hofman and daughter Riley placing a wreath at East Brady)
(Image by Kim Beham: Kim’s grandaughter Raelyn placing wreaths. Her little brother, mom and dad all helped.)
(Image by Kim Beham: Danielle McCarthy and daughter Paige placing wreath at East Brady)

Tina Flick – Rimersburg Coordinator (And also Clarion County Chair for Walk to End Alzheimers):  

Although today was a very wet and rainy day, that did not stop many community members from coming out and honoring our fallen veteran’s. With the help of the community, we were able to place over 1,100 wreaths in ten cemeteries. Those cemeteries include Rimersburg, Old Seceder, The Mausoleum, Duncan, Lawsonham, Mt. Hope, United Presbyterian Church, Independent, Randolph, Grandview and Bethesda.

(Image by Laurie Hughes: Rimersburg Ceremony)

We have added Sligo Cemetery to our 2022 list also. Wreaths are $15 each and until January 14th, 2022 they are running a buy one – get one free event. That would mean 2 wreaths for $15. For more information contact me at 814-229-9297.

As you may have already noticed there are several new roads that have been constructed at the Rimersburg cemetery. The Rimersburg Cemetery Association is using the profits from Wreaths Across America to purchase the upcoming limestone for this project.

(Image by Laurie Hughes: Participants placing wreaths in Rimersburg)

On behalf of the Rimersburg Cemetery Association, we would like to thank Eric Cicciarelli for supplying his backhoe, dozer, and dump truck, also, the rock for the project and his time spent excavating the roads.  We also Thank Lee Cicciarelli and Bubba for their help running equipment, as well as Heb Radaker for furnishing his roller and operating it.

(Image by Billie Hilliard: The Union Boys and Girls Basketball Teams participated in placing wreaths.)

Thank you to Rod Flick for spending time getting the roads laid out, and lastly Thank you to CBF contracting for loaning their dump truck to help haul the topsoil and rock for the project.  We are not finished with the roads, but plan on doing more in the upcoming year.  

The Rimersburg Cemetery Associations would like to thank the countless people who helped in so many ways. There are so many people that we need to thank. I know I would forget someone. We are so grateful for the community members’ support in Wreaths Across America. Here’s to another great year!

Romayne McGinnis – Knox Area Coordinator: Eighteen different cemeteries were ALL covered this year with 957 sponsored wreaths.

(Image by Kathy Barrett: The Honor Guard from Knox American Legion Post 720 participated in the Knox Area Ceremony.)

The Ceremony went well at the Knox American Legion parking lot again this year.  I broadcast with a microphone as well as a transmitter, to the car radios for the ones who wanted to stay out of the rain and keep warm and dry. 

(Image by Kathy Barrett: Bagpiper Mark Krieger was at Knox Ceremony again this year.)

I had lots of volunteers and it was short work to lay the wreaths.   I have been told there are a few more that I missed in the area so will be adding them for next year. 

I am very thankful to the community for all their help to accomplish this wonderful mission.

(Image by Kathy Barrett: Knox Area Cemeteries Banner)

(Thanks to all who participated in the 2021 Wreaths Across America, and to all the Veterans, Thank you for your service!!

And thank you to all of those throughout the county who contributed comments and/or images for this article.)