Fourth Degree Assembly partnering with Wreaths Across America
Paul Moore was likely the longest living Pearl Harbor survivor in Hampton Roads when he died at the age of 97 in 2019.
Moore grew up in Portsmouth and Chesapeake and enlisted in the Navy directly after high school in July 1940. He was onboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. When the sailors were ordered to abandon ship, he jumped from the bow and swam ashore.
Patty Hankins, one of his four children, said Moore was “a religious, humble, quiet, reserved person” who never considered himself “a hero” but “a sailor doing the job he was trained to do.”
He and his wife, Honey, raised their children in Chesapeake. He was a parishioner at Church of St. Therese, Chesapeake, and a member of the St. Paul Knights of Columbus Council 418, Portsmouth, for decades.
Edward Nagle, who was born and raised in Portsmouth, served in the Air Force from 1961 to 1965. He was stationed in Texas and Germany. When he returned to Hampton Roads, he became a cameraman with WAVY-TV 10. Later, he was a producer and director of CBN documentaries on mission trips to places that included Haiti and Africa.
Nagle and his wife, Charlene, raised four children in Portsmouth and Suffolk. They were members of St. Paul Parish, Portsmouth, and he was a Knight in Council 418 for more than 50 years. He died in 2018.
George Baker, whose father was a lifelong Marine, joined the Corps in the 1950s after high school and fought in the Korean War. He intended to make a career in the Marines, but his service was cut short so he could care for his mother. His nephew, Bill Nagle, described him as “a quiet, very religious person.”
Baker was born in Portsmouth and moved to Suffolk with his wife, Jamie, in the 1970s. He was an electrician for the power company for 40 years, a parishioner at St. Paul and a member of Council 418 for 70 years. He died in 2017.
These are just three of approximately 160 veterans interred at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Portsmouth where the St. Paul Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Assembly 1166 will partner with Wreaths Across America (WAA) for an annual wreath-laying ceremony for veterans on Saturday, Dec. 18, at noon. WAA coordinates the simultaneous remembrances each December for former military members buried in Arlington National Cemetery and more than 2,500 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.
Assembly 1166 includes Fourth-Degree Knights from Council 418, Holy Angels Council 10766, Portsmouth, St. Mary of the Presentation Council 7363, Suffolk and Good Shepherd Council 17335, Smithfield.
About 10% of the approximately 1,600 graves in All Saints Cemetery are the final resting places of persons who served in the armed forces.
Burials of veterans date to the late 1800s, but it is unknown exactly how many veterans are buried at All Saints because their graves can only be identified if their service is mentioned on the marker, said Dan Foster, assembly member and location coordinator for National Wreaths Across America Day.
Foster, a retired Navy chief petty officer, knows firsthand what those sacrifices entail. Military members may have to move away from family and friends, go on deployments, and risk being placed in “harm’s way,” he said.
This is the second year in which All Saints Catholic Cemetery has been part of National Wreaths Across America Day. Foster didn’t anticipate having the wreath-laying ceremony last year because he didn’t think there was time to organize one. It was November when the organization decided to do the patriotic service project, and Foster registered the cemetery with WAA.
However, excitement mounted and individuals unexpectedly sponsored 20 wreaths, so a remembrance was planned. WAA provided ceremonial wreaths representing all branches of military service and POW-MIAs.
At press time, 86 wreaths had been donated for the 2021 ceremony. For every two wreaths purchased on the WAA website before Dec. 1, WAA will provide a wreath. Wreaths purchased after Nov. 30 will be reserved for the 2022 remembrance, Foster said.
During the ceremony on Dec. 18, the wreaths will be blessed. At the end of the ceremony, volunteers will place each one on a veteran’s gravesite and announce the deceased veteran’s name. Ceremonial wreaths, now including the U.S. Space Force, will also be placed in the cemetery.
Kyle Garrett, the assembly’s faithful navigator, said it’s important to ensure that military members’ sacrifices have not been forgotten because “freedom isn’t free.”
Foster said the remembrance “makes children aware of service and what it means and why we have the freedoms we have today.”
Hankins is pleased the event will be held.
“I think the Wreaths Across America project is a great way to honor and teach about our veterans,” she said. “Plus, the wreath made of evergreens and in a round shape makes it a representation of eternal life.”
Editor’s note: All Saints Catholic Cemetery is located at the corner of Elm Ave. and Portsmouth Blvd. The entrance gate is on Elm Ave. Sponsor wreaths at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/VA0754.