Community choir pays tribute

Special Memorial Day event honors those who gave their lives in service

On Memorial Day more than 100 voices will rise at Idlewild Cemetery in musical tribute to those who have died in service to their country.

Hood River resident Rodger Schock formed the “Friends and Neighbors Choir” last month in answer to the strong spirit of patriotism that has swept across America with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

“It seemed timely to do something to give people a better understanding of why men and women who lay dead in the cemetery gave their lives and to memorialize that effort,” said Schock.

The Army veteran has always believed that the May holiday was a very important time to honor America’s war dead. He has become concerned in recent years that the long-standing tradition is now often viewed by busy citizens as just another day off from work.

“Memorial Day always affected me like no other day when I was growing up and yet every year it seems like there are fewer and fewer people who attend the ceremonies,” said Schock, who has enlisted choir members from the neighboring state of Washington and as far away as Maine.

“I want to encourage everyone to take a few minutes of their time and honor the men and women who answered the call and didn’t come home,” said Schock, who will also serve as keynote speaker for the solemn service at the cemetery off Brookside Drive.

The first-ever mixed chorus will be led by Judy Ferguson, choir director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Hood River. The accompanist for the assemblage will be Melody Shellman and soloist Anita Decker will perform the National Anthem.

“I would like to see families bring their children and teach them that all of the good things we enjoy in this nation of ours comes at a price, a very expensive price,” Schock said.

Audience members will be invited to sing along with the choir on the following seven selections: This Is My Country; My Country ’Tis of Thee; Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor; Battle Hymn of the Republic; America the Beautiful; God Bless America; and Grand Old Flag.

During the special ceremony, 11 more bronze plaques will be added to the “Walk of Honor,” which lines the path to the Veterans Statue. Last year, Schock laid the first 11 markers for service men and women who have been cremated and do not have markers elsewhere. On May 27 the following deceased veterans will have poppy wreaths — the red flower symbolizing blood spilled on the battlefield — placed on their “Walk of Honor” testimonials: Sho Endow, Army; Darrel Brown, Navy; Leroy DeHart, Army; Alphonse Kollas, Marine Corp.; Kenneth Phillips, Navy; Delbert Applegate, Navy; Floyd Dethman, Army Air Corp.; David Huseby, Army; J. Frank Bigler, Navy; Robert Small, Navy; and Ivan Dakin, Army.

Immediately following the official ceremony will be a Memorial Day Brunch served by the Hood River Valley Adult Center, 2010 Sterling Place. The meal will feature an assortment of food selections, including roast beef, sausage gravy and biscuits, lasagna, scrambled eggs, salads, sauteed vegetables, fruit, and assorted pastries. Cost is $8 per adult and $4 for children ages four to 10. To reserve a table for eight persons or more call 386-2060.

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