By: Wally Wersching
On March 11th, 2017, Ronald (Rollie) Crane passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family and friends. Rollie had served as a Corporal in the USMC during the Vietnam War. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing – Danang, Vietnam for 13 months. The Patriot Guard was notified, and requested to stand for him on Wednesday March 15th at the Clay Barnett Funeral Home in Shelby. It was only a visitation flag line – no burial. Rollie had been cremated.
The Clay Barnett Funeral Home does something a little different for veterans being cremated. They get old weathered American Flags that would be destroyed, fold them in the proper way, and then place one on the chest of the veteran during cremation. That way, the veteran’s ashes will always have a flag with them.
The visitation was scheduled from 5:30 to 7 pm. I arrived at the home at 5:00, and joined in the flag line. The Ride Captain had already placed flags around the front of the home. That way, all who came or even passed by would know that a veteran was being honored.
It was an unusual mission. Nobody rode their bike. It was frigid with the temps not getting out of the 30’s. We all were dressed in our cold weather riding gear. There were two entrances to the home. One was in the sun but also in the cold brisk wind, and the other in the shade but no wind. Both were like standing in a freezer.
I was on the sunny side. The sun was actually keeping me warm for a while. People started coming in for the visitation. Almost everyone thanked us for being there for Rollie. A few asked which organization we belonged to. All were gracious. It almost warmed us as we stood there shaking from the cold.
I walked to the other door to take a couple pictures, and noticed a great looking 1936 Plymouth Hearse. The home uses it when a family wants a funeral with something a little different. It’s in great shape. I’ve seen is around Shelby from time to time. It’s a real eye-catcher.
At about 6:30, one of the PGR men where I was standing said that his legs were done. He couldn’t stand anymore. He slowly walked towards his car in obvious pain.
At 7:00, the service began, and I couldn’t stop shaking all over. The flag line stood down, and I had to leave, too. It had been a very long time since I had been that cold. I felt bad that I left, and didn’t help take down the flags, but I had trouble walking, too.
I was honored to be able to stand for Rollie, and I’ll go again when notified for the next veteran’s funeral. I just hope that it’s a little warmer.