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Armistice Day heralded in Picture Rocks

By Staff | Nov 15, 2018

RUTH FRY/The Luminary A group of youth hold miniature bells awarded to them for aiding in pulling the bell rope during the Nov. 11, 2018 patriotic service at the Picture Rocks United Methodist Church. The group included (in no specific order) Madelyn and Lillian Gordner, Kinsley and Kipton Holmes, Anastasia and Sara Rine, Davis Pace and McKylee Vollman.  

PICTURE ROCKS – A portrait of WWI Private Harry Oscar Miller hung in the vestibule at Picture Rocks United Methodist Church during the Veterans Day service held Sunday, November 11, 2018. Protected in a large oval frame under a glass dome, Miller’s family treasures the photo.

As the veteran’s grandson it seems fitting that Jeff Miller, a member of the host church, supervised the youth in pulling the bell rope.

The grandfather had been born on Independence Day 1894 in the Muncy Valley area of Lycoming County’s Franklin Township. When the Armistice was signed, the soldier was in France.

Attached to Company G of the 55th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, Private Miller arrived on foreign soil just as the final push was made toward the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.

Surrounded by death and destruction, guns fell silent while around the world on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, bells tolled announcing the peace treaty. As Private Miller remained overseas eight additional months, he did not hear the bells.

RUTH FRY/The Luminary Kipton Holmes was the first to tug the rope ringing the bell at the Picture Rocks United Methodist Church on Sunday November 11, 2018. The youngster is aided by host church member Jeff Miller. Rotating in sequence, the children had two opportunities to participate.    

The soldier wed Ruth Houseknecht, raised a family in the Unityville area and in April 1951, died instantly in a farm machinery accident. Interred in Twin Hills Cemetery, the veteran was deceased when the war’s 50th anniversary came and went.

On Sunday, organist Sharon Moyer gave a prelude of military hymns. Leading the Pledge to the flag, scouts from Troop 26 were Brent Taylor and Seth Golder. Guitarist Carol Mordan was joined by vocalists Lloyd Mordan, Connie Richart, Sara Rine, Melanie Saltzgiver and Rachael Bitler in singing “God Bless America.”

The welcome was given by Mel Saltzgiver, pastor of Point Bethel and Kedron United Methodist Churches. Marine retired Jerry Uppling, pastor at Picture Rocks Baptist Church, provided remarks about WWI by saying, “During the war, my grandfather was part of the resistance in Hungry.” He went on to identify causes for the conflict claiming 40 million fatalities worldwide as “Wherever greed has its way, evil will soon follow.”

Of the 90 persons in attendance, 16 veterans stood representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. When the latter related being Marines, Uppling gave a “Who-Rah!”

During the patriotic service, several names of WWI veterans were voiced. All local, a few examples included Carl Bender, Boyd L. Crawley, Howard Fox, Raymond Fox, Alvin Fry, George Fry, Tracy Laurenson, Arthur Springer, Dr. Joseph Corson and Dr. Alvin Poust.

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Descendants of WWI veteran Harry O. Miller display the soldier's photo which hung in the vestibule overseeing the bell ringing at Picture Rocks United Methodist Church on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2018. Pressent are the soldier's great-granddaughter Jennifer Miller (seated, and left to right) are brothers Jeff Miller (bell ringing supervisor) and Dan Miller. Five congregations totaling 90 attendees gathered to honor the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending WWI.

Following the 21-bell salute, youths attending were awarded metal ‘Liberty Style’ bells. The ringers included McKylee Vollman, Madelyn Gordner, Kensley and Kipton Holmes, Anastasia and Sara Rine, and Davis Pace. Attached to a gold and white cord, the miniature bells were presented by Carol Sones Shetler.

Congregational songs included “America the Beautiful,” and “America.” The gathering concluded with “Let there be Peace on Earth.”

The five participating churches included Picture Rocks Baptist, Kedron, Point Bethel, Tivoli, all hosted by the Picture Rocks United Methodist Church.

Jeff Miller shared the history of the church bell. “Cast in Baltimore in 1884 with the inscription ‘Picture Rocks M. E. Church,’ it was at the original church at the corner of Water and Elm Street. In 1889, ice jams caused flooding destroying the church. Damage to the bell was a small chipping to the turion (axel carriage) on which it swings. We just inspected the bell last month,” Miller said.

The ringing of bells across the nation was a directive of the National WWI Centennial Commission identified as “Bells of Peace.” On their website, a certificate of participation is available. All are urged to submit photos and information documenting their 2018 Veterans Day programs.