Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Wreaths for the fallen


December 18, 2019

Ron Warnick

Susan Taylor of the Tucumcari chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sorts wreaths from Wreaths Across America on Saturday morning at Tucumcari Memorial Park. More than 100 gravesites at the cemetery and Quay Cemetery were decorated.

More than 100 veterans' graves at Tucumcari Memorial Park and Quay Cemetery were decorated Saturday with holiday-themed garlands in the region's first-ever participation in the Wreaths Across America program.

Officials with the Tucumcari chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who led the local Wreaths Across America effort, said the organization likely would participate in it next year because the support it received.

Susan Taylor, a member of the local DAR, said the organization would have sold more of than fragrant, red-ribboned wreaths made of balsam fir branches from Maine, but it didn't start offering them until November.

"It has had such a favorable acceptance," she said. "I received a lot of thank-yous from those who didn't even order them. People already are talking about next year. We'll do it again."

GiGi Parker, a registrar and veterans chairwoman for the DAR, said it likely will begin taking Wreaths Across America orders next October.

The Tucumcari DAR received 108 wreaths. About 70 were ordered by families whose veteran ancestors are buried in the Tucumcari cemetery.

One of them was Bill Griffin, whose father, Clifford, likely is the only Pearl Harbor survivor buried in Tucumcari.

Bill Griffin said his father "never would talk about" the attack in 1941 that hurtled the United States into World War II, but he acknowledged "it was the worst day of his life" despite his Navy ships being sunk twice during the war.

Griffin said his dad and other off-duty USS Medusa colleagues in a whaleboat tried to rescue fellow sailors trapped under burning oil slicks on the harbor waters immediately after Japan's sneak attack.

"Their heads would pop up (through the burning oil), and it'd light up like a Roman candle," he said.

Bill Griffin, who served in the Army, said his father survived sinkings of the USS Chicago and USS Abner during other skirmishes. He described a third ship being half-sunk - it lost a stern during an attack at the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, but it was towed to Seattle for new stern.

Clifford Griffin died in 1989. A Pearl Harbor Survivors medallion remains affixed to his gravestone.

Bob Mead and his wife, Joanne, laid a wreath on the grave of his father, Henry Harrison Mead, who died of appendicitis near Norton in 1930.

Mead's father, who served the Navy during World War I, was in his 40s when he died. Bob was only 1 1/2 years old, leaving his mother and grandparents to raise him and the rest of his family during the Great Depression.

"It's one way of paying him back," Mead said about the wreath. "There's not much we've done for him, ever."

Bob Mead served in the Army during the Korean War.

Locals, including members of the Wranglers 4-H Club, bought another 40 wreaths for unspecified graves. About 15 DAR-associated volunteers spent Saturday morning figuring out which veteran gravesites should be decorated.

Among those gravesites that received a wreath were Ira John Briscoe, part of the Texas infantry during the Spanish-American War, and Alfred Shelby, a Civil War veteran.

Another Civil War veteran was among three gravesites at Quay Cemetery south of Tucumcari that received wreaths, as well.

At noon, DAR members conducted a brief service at a veterans' memorial in the Tucumcari cemetery. They laid a special wreath decorated with a small POW flag to recognize the 93,129 Americans who were POWs or missing in action. Wreaths Across America also provided special wreaths with small flags signifying each branch of the military.

Wreaths Across America began in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, who owned Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine, had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Wreaths were placed at Arlington National Cemetery in one of its older sections that had received fewer visitors.

Wreaths Across America, now a nonprofit organization, lays more than 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations across the U.S. annually.

Taylor said anyone interested in buying a wreath in 2020 can call her at (575) 403-6959.


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