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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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A Salute to a Member of the Greatest Generation


By Jene Hedden

     As our generation ages and retires, sadly we find ourselves saying goodbye to our parents and other loved ones of their generation...what newscaster and writer Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation in his book by the same name.  That group of people, who grew up during the Great Depression then went on to win WWII, are fast disappearing from our lives and from the landscape of our country. 

     Sunday, July 3, the day before ’s Independence Day, my good friend Tom Adkisson and I drove to McKee Kentucky which is the county seat of Jackson County.
     Jackson County has not had any major infusion of prosperity in recent times, but more than forty years ago, McKee was the home of Possum Trot Industries.  Noted for their whimsical stuffed animals hand made by local mountain folk, Possum Trot products were often displayed on the popular Saturday night TV show “Hee Haw”. The industry was initially the recipient of some federal dollars to incentivize the employment of the local population, but then the money went away and so did the jobs.

     Tom and I drove southeast from Berea, finding ourselves on lesser quality and more twisting roads the further we traveled.   US 421 took us through Big Hill and Sand Gap, then finally to the river bottom and McKee with its single traffic light. Our destination was the Lakes Funeral Home just beyond downtown.

     We had driven there to support Dwain, our Bible Study class-mate at the funeral of his 96 year old father, Virgil Montgomery. I never met Mr. Montgomery, but I learned a lot about this fine Christian man at his service.

     Mr. Montgomery was a WWII veteran, and I noted at once the folded American Flag on his open casket. The photos around the casket portrayed a contagious smile that apparently was always present on his face. Even as I gazed at the casket, I could envision that smile on his wrinkled face.

     Virgil Montgomery was a man of his word. He married his bride at the age of twenty three and remained married to her for the next seventy three years.  Seventy three years! Wow!  He had already been married twenty-five years when I married my bride!  I thought I had been married a lifetime! Unfortunately, Mrs. Montgomery was too ill to be present at her husband's farewell service.

     Mr. Montgomery was also a man of his word in another way. He served as pastor of several congregations around Jackson County for forty years and lived the Gospel he preached. He outlived many of the folks he had introduced to his Lord and Savior. Rev. Roger Williams spoke knowingly of the good man Virgil Montgomery was known to be.  Jackson County truly lost a fine native son.

     We have just celebrated Independence Day with fireworks, cookouts and horseshoes. It is a time when we remember the brave patriots of Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, San Juan, Iwo Jima, the Middle East and the untold hills, mountains and deserts where brave men fought and paid the ultimate price so we as Americans can celebrate the holiday in whatever way we choose.

     God bless the memory of Virgil Montgomery, his family, his parishioners, and the good mountain folks of Jackson County Kentucky. May America’s Flag continue to wave over the “land of the free and the home of the brave”!