Veterans honored and remembered

A ceremony was held April 6 in memory of the local veterans who died during the first quarter of the year.

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Posted April 6, 2024 | By Andy Fillmore / Photos by Bruce Ackerman

The Spring Memorial for Marion County Veterans held April 6 at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park saw 77 veterans memorialized for their service and sacrifice.

The ceremony, formerly called the Quarterly Reading, included the recitation of the names of veterans from Marion County who passed away in the prior three months. Several of those honored were active in the local veteran’s community.

Lewis Alston, a tireless participant in events at the park and a member of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard, died in November 2023 and was one of those honored. Alston served in at least 500 honor guard military funerals and was regularly seen at park events proudly wearing his U.S. Marine Corps dress blues uniform and cheerfully performing a snappy hand salute.

Navy Senior Chief Don Kennedy, president of the MCMHG, spoke about all veterans and his comrade, Alston. He said veterans contribute “the most important years of their lives” to their country and often “carry the scars” of that service. He said Alston served in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971 and was recon with the 1st Marine Division. Alston was a Purple Heart recipient for shrapnel wounds suffered during the Vietnam War. Kennedy said Alston worked as a truck driver after his service and volunteered for the Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard in his then hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, before moving to Ocala.

Kennedy said Alston served as a volunteer school crossing guard in Lancaster wearing his Marine uniform. A Sept. 2, 2014, article in the Lancaster area “Record-Argus” newspaper states that Cpl. Alston “noticed students crossing South Duke Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School without a crossing guard” and stepped up to help.

Bruce Hutchinson, a member of the MCMHG, who served on military funerals with Alston recalled his friend as “fun.”

Bruce Lamoureux, a U.S. Navy veteran and past president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and Richard Baldwin, also a Navy veteran and longtime member of the Nautilus Base submarine veterans group here, were named and honored this quarter.

Antoinette Fucci and her son, Frank Fucci, attended the ceremony to honor husband and father, U.S. Army veteran Richard Fucci, who passed away on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2023.

Richard Fucci was a volunteer at the Veterans Education Center adjacent to the park and played accordion with friend and fellow volunteer and Korean War-era veteran Ralph Mueller, who joined the family at the ceremony.

“I feel better talking about him,” said Antoinette Fucci, Richard’s wife of almost 68 years. The family has several members who are veterans and some currently serving, including Marcel Fucci, who is near retirement from the military.

The ceremony included the sounding of a bell with each name read by veteran Dave Bice and a drum roll by veteran Johnathan Hurst. A color guard was provided by members of the North Marion High School Air Force JROTC, with the pledge of allegiance by Samuel Coventry and the national anthem sung by Tim Lafferty.

Members of Cub Scout Pack 18 were on hand to help at the ceremony. Taps, played by a member of the MCMHG, a gun salute by the Ocala Police Department and bagpipe music by John Earl were also part of the ceremony. Dexter Vance with Hospice of Marion County offered prayers and retired colonel Craig Ham opened the ceremony.

The memorialized veterans’ names were read by members of the Ocala Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Marine Corps League Marion Detachment 061 of Ocala. Renee Coventry, regent of the Ocala Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was recognized with a plaque by the Marion County Veterans Service Office for her work and “dedication” as recording secretary for the Marion County Veterans Memorial Park Events and Program Committee.

Jeffrey Askew, director of the Marion County Veterans Service Office, and park volunteers, hosted the event.

Staff and volunteers with Hospice of Marion County, who are regular supporters of the memorial ceremonies, provided flags, refreshments, social media notices and more.

Robert D. Charette passed away Dec. 30, 2023. His widow, Laura, and sons, Justin and Bryan, attended the ceremony to honor his service in the Army National Guard.

Norma McCoin and Jodeanne Moore came to pay respects to son and brother, Randy Joel McCoin, 68. A family member said he loved the Navy and served in an administrative job and onboard a ship.

Members of veteran Edward Whiden’s family, Louisa Whiden and Desiri Savage paid respects to the veterans named Saturday and made sure their loved one’s name would be added to the Summer Memorial.

About 150 people attended the ceremony.

“(Veterans) deserve the recognition,” Kennedy said during his remarks.

Those honored and remembered were:
U.S. Army
Thomas H.Bolinski
Preston W. Brinkman
Larry C. Chesteen
Ralph “Bigfoot” Clovis
James A. “Jim” Dickbernd
Curtiss E. Dyess
Richard Fucci
William R. “Bill” Fugitt
Howard J. Girard
Robert L. Glass
Alphonso “Al” Gordon
Carl E. Gross
Robert M. Higgins
Hadleigh H. Howd
Gary Lee Huffman
Elijah J. James
Elwood J. Latsha
Paul Lee
James W. Likens
David P. Maloney
James E. Merrick Jr.
Ralph. A. Messina
Michael Mikulak
Gregory A. Mullhall
Louis M. Nardella
Joseph Prego
Jack F. Reents
Bruce L. Stover
David Lawrence Tabit
Ronald C. Torri
Ron O. Velez
Harold N. White
Joseph Zawacki

U.S. Navy
Richard A. Baldwin
Edwin M. Carr Jr.
Stephen G. Crumley
Ruth M. Knutson
Bruce Lamoureux
Stephen M. Lazor
Harry J. Marchadie III
Randy Joel McCoin
Rolf Myhre
Robert O. Peddy
Joseph H. Strauch
William A. “Bill” Titus (multiple branches)

U.S. Marine Corps

Lewis Alston
Gerald J. Lemerise
John M. Pockalny
Samuel M. Trippe

U.S. Air Force
Lee E. Brown
Paul Collins
Michael T. “Tom” Croy
Lewis J. “LJ” Hall
Richard G. Perry
Laurence Puckhaber
John A. Scott, III

U.S. Coast Guard
William H. Backlinie

Army National Guard
Robert C. Breiten
Robert D. Charette

Army Reserves
Frank J. “Jack” Banning, Jr.

Also honored (branch affiliation not clarified)
Thomas Allison
Donald Bayliss
Robert Bibb
John Fiveash
Paul Francis
George Green
Robert Huffman
Lanny Lambert
Alfred Middleton
Tilden Mills
George Ooley
Perry Rhoads
Charles Silva
Miyako Simmons
Jon Stoterau
Rahan Uddin
Albert York


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