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Wreaths honor Veterans locally and nationwide

By by CAROL SONES SHETLER - | Jan 6, 2021

RUTH FRY/The Luminary Honoring WWII Army veteran, Carl Campbell, was granddaughter Ashley (Campbell) Miller.

PICTURE ROCKS – Local volunteers with the “Wreaths Across American” (WAA) project placed wreaths on 130 military graves at the Picture Rocks Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 19. The greens will remain in place through mid January with the public invited to drive by and spend a few moments honoring these deceased heroes.

As follows, some relatives shared memories of their loved ones with The Luminary: ROBERT MANN was honored by daughter Christie Mann who said the disabled Army veteran had for 24 years, been post master at Picture Rocks. According to Christie, “Dad began his duties in 1965 when the building was erected serving until his death in 1981.” Christie, like many others, saw the on-line post for the local project, and some years ago had traveled to Arlington Cemetery in Virginia to witness a wreath laying ceremony there.

LEROY ‘Red’ CONFER’s wreath was placed by daughter Dusty Miller and three-year-old Kingsley Kerstetter, the WWII Navy man’s great-great granddaughter. Miller said, “This photo of Kingsley will be one for the ages. I had also been to Arlington Cemetery with daughter Steph and granddaughter Mary Jo. It was a wonderful thing to see trailer loads of wreaths unloaded where we were offered wreaths to place on any grave. To my knowledge, our family has no one at Arlington, but it was on my bucket list to do as I think our veterans need honored more. My brother, Charles ‘Chuck’ Confer, followed dad’s example by also serving in the Navy.”

The NEWMAN gravesite has no connection to Sierra and mother Deb Sullivan, but was just where the photographer found them. As only the surname is seen and not the given names, we gleaned information from the book, “Cemeteries east of the Loyalsock” a publication by the Lycoming County Genealogical Society. Several Newman veterans are listed for Picture Rocks cemetery including William G. of WWI; Charles, Collins, and Paul I., all of WWII, and John O. Newman of the Korean Conflict.

JOHN VAN BUSKIRK, a Korean War Air Force veteran, had his wreath placed by grandson Josh Fry. Honoring WWII Army veteran CARL CAMPBELL was granddaughter Ashley (Campbell) Miller. Joining near the end of the war, Carl remained stateside. Beatrice (Gansell) Tarin placed greens for her father STUART GANSELL, part of a crew flying bombing mission during WWII. Also CHARLES GANSELL, honored by daughter Crystal (Gansell) Whitcomb.

PHOTO PROVIDED Honoring LeRoy ‘Red’ Confer in the “Wreaths Across America” project at Picture Rocks Cemetery is daughter Dusty Miller, accompanied by Kinsley Kerstetter, the WWII Navy veteran’s three-year-old great-great granddaughter.

Sierra Sullivan, who organized the first time area event locally, is the great-granddaughter of veteran Wayne Croman. Interred elsewhere, Croman is an ancestor from her paternal line. Sierra and her mother have also visited Arlington Cemetery’s wreath laying ceremonies.

Also in attendance was Joe Hamm, (PA State House Representative R-84), who participated in the event. Carrying out the local project was made more challenging as cemetery driveways remained unplowed to navigate through the 20 or so inches from a recent snowfall.

The WAA mission statement is to “Remember – Honor – Teach.” Each year, the wreaths are crafted from tips sheared from balsam fir trees. In an effort to keep the trees in continuous production, tips are clipped every three years.

Columbia Falls, Maine is the location of the WAA National Museum where the 1800 square-foot building is a forum to store and display donated military items. According to its director, “The museum offers a place for comfort and healing.”

RUTH FRY/The Luminary Christie Mann recovered with a smile after her tramp, tramp, slip and fall experience following the placement of a wreath on her father’s grave, that of veteran and former Picture Rocks post master, Robert Mann.

RUTH FRY/The Luminary Sierra Sullivan, Coordinator, was inspired by her mother, Deb Sullivan, to join the effort of a national project known as “Wreaths Across America.” The result was the placing of 130 balsam fir wreaths on veterans graves in the Picture Rocks Cemetery on Dec. 19, 2020.

RUTH FRY/The Luminary Knee deep snow did not deter volunteers from placing greens on veterans graves during the national “Wreaths Across America” an annual project. A group of local volunteers placed 130 wreaths of balsam fir greens in the cemetery at Picture Rocks on Saturday, Dec. 19.