STEWARDSON — The people of Stewardson proved Sunday that they don't need an organized event to recognize local servicemen and women.
A service was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Stewardson Cemetery, but was canceled due to an approaching thunderstorm.Still, more than 35 people came to the cemetery, some lingering only moments over loved ones' graves while others grouped together, remembering the fallen.“They're missed and respected,” said Dorene Sparks of the fallen. “People showed up anyway. You don't need a ceremony” to honor those in the service.Sparks had proved that just the day before during the memorial for her father, veteran Kenneth Friese, who died last week.After the memorial service held in his honor, the hearse was driven to Stewardson Veterans Memorial for Friese to be honored one last time by an honor guard.“We pulled the hearse up to the memorial … to honor him,” Sparks said. “That's the first time it's ever been done (in Stewardson). No one has ever used the memorial that way.”Friese was a United States Navy veteran of the Korean War.He loved participating in service ceremonies and served as commander of Wilbur Braughton American Legion Post 611 in Stewardson, where he also commanded the firing squad for a time.When he became too sick to help with the firing squad, he took up the electronic bugle to play “Taps” at the ceremonies, even if he could only play from the car, “just so he could be a part of it,” Sparks said.“We're a family that always supports the military,” she said, adding her brother, Scott Friese, also served. “They (soldiers) get such a hard rap. We're thankful they hear that call.” Kenneth's widow, Sandra Friese, said people don't need a personal connection to commemorate Memorial Day.“It's for anyone,” she said. “It's to honor all veterans of all wars, by all peoples.”Even in their own sorrow, the family members were happy to support other veterans and those still serving on Memorial Day.“It's part of being an American,” Sparks said.
Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.