SCHUYLER FALLS — One of Francis Brown Turner's last wish was to be taken home, and those that loved him last and those that never knew him made that happened Tuesday afternoon.
Patriot Guard Senior Ride Captain Dan Nolin led the motorcade into the Schuyler Falls Cemetery on Felton Road.
Francis's caretaker, Lyu Hardishek, was escorted to the rear of the cemetery by U.S. Air Force Col. Jon Spangler and Diana Smith, a volunteer escort and vocalist from the Chateau Elan Military Support Foundation in Georgia.
The trio had flown from the Peach State to the Empire State with the late veteran's cremains in a star-spangled funerary urn.
WORLD'S FAIR TO ARMY BUGLER
Francis passed away on April 27, 2019, and he lived Flowery Branch, Georgia.
But he was born May 13, 1922, the oldest of four boys of Maurice and Hazel Turner of Schuyler Falls, where the Turner homestead still stands on the road named after them.
In his home place, Francis was a crack student, baseball player and help on the family farm. His uncle ran the lumber mill.
Francis was a Boys Scout and became an Eagle Scout in 1939.
His badges included one for bugling, and he did so twice at the United Nations Expo at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair.
After graduating from high school, he attended Plattsburgh Normal School until the day of infamy, Dec. 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was obliterated.
Francis had been out skiing, but he resolved to serve his country and follow in his father's footsteps. Maurice, a U.S. Marine, had received a purple heart at the Battle of Belleau Woods during World War I.
Too short for the Marines and with blood pressure too high for the U.S. Army, Francis signed up wit the Army of the United States, today's Army Reserves.
He was called to active duty on April 29, 1943.
He entered LaFayette College on Oct. 5, and when that closed, he completed the Army Specialized Training Program in Engineering on April 1, 1944.
He was one of the 15,000 troops who boarded the Queen Mary in New York City on Dec. 15, 1944.
THIRD UNITED STATES ARMY
In Europe, he joined the 395th Engineer Co. that chased Gen. George S. Patton. Third United States Army across Europe.
Francis was the company bugler and was chosen to be an an honor guard for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill when they toured Maastricht, Belgium to build troop morale in November 1944.
Later, Francis was in a autobahn accident in Germany that injured his right knee and brain forever.
He celebrated V-E Day with his unit in Marseilles, France.
A month later, he was on another troop ship sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to join the 2nd Port Command in Manila, Republic of the Philippines.
His tour in the Pacific Theater was cut short when Imperial Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945.
After his ship's arrival in San Francisco, Francis was transported to Valley Forge General Hospital and then to the Veterans Hospital in Canandaigua.
Francis was formally discharged on March 31, 1946, and he left in the company of his father in July.
He resumed his studies at Plattsburgh Normal School, where he met his wife, Barbara Jean Randell.
They both became educators and the parents of four Down Syndrome sons — Roger, Rodney, Randell and Charles.
When his wife became ill, Francis trained with Hospice to keep her at home until she passed away from cancer in 1990.
Francis met Lyu in the Lil Cafe in Clark Mills, NY in the fall of 1999.
When she relocated to Georgia a year later, she invited him to join her family there.
“I found that it takes a special community to give a World War II veteran and Eagle Scout a wonderful send-off,” Hardishek said.
“I know that Mr. Turner with his family and friends on the other side are here with us smiling at all the outpouring of respect and love you are giving him and the life he shared with all of us. I wish to thank all of those who made this event possible.”
Those in attendance included Disabled American Veterans, Bill Long from the Bugles from Across America, Legion Riders, and Rose Martineau, cemetery director.
“Scouting was an important part of the life of Francis Turner,” Hardishek said.
“He could not remember all of his badges, but he glowed when he talked about how much he enjoyed achieving them.”
Francis shared how his scouting skills helped him when he went to war with thousands of schoolchildren and Scouts.
“He said he bugled for the Army, applied the knot-tying skills and learned to have the confidence to solve problems,” Hardishek said.
“He also had mastered the art of sleeping on the ground, which he had to do for two years in the war."
'NEVER GIVE UP'
Hardishek gave Troop 49 a plaque Francis received from after climbing Mt. Yonah.
“When Mr. Turner was 86, he was still suffering from his knees being off by two-and-a-half inches from the war, which caused him to waddle rather than walk and resulted in painful arthritis,” she said.
“Where others took a half hour, he spent three hours and was the oldest senior to achieve that height. He was awarded a plaque that I want to give to the Scouts with his picture to remind them to never give up.”
Boys Scout Aidan Hoogkamp accepted the plaque and framed photograph on behalf of his troop.
“This day was something to help remember this man Francis and to help his grieving family for their loss,” he said.
Francis, a master Mason, had lifetime memberships in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.
“Francis was a great lover of both the United States and his family history,” Hardishek said.
“His family fought for this country in a direct lineage back to the Revolution with one even serving directly under George Washington.
“He was such an encyclopedia on U.S. history right up until his last days. He felt that history forgotten is history repeated.”
Hardishek gave Schuyler Falls Town Historian Benkwitt the deceased veteran's World War II medals.
“Another box of personal photos and writings will be mailed later to add to the history of your community,” Hardishek said.
“I know that he would be happy to make these items available to all of you.”
"ONE OF US'
Spangler thanked everyone for coming out Tuesday afternoon.
"Francis served under Patton," he said.
"He was in the supply chain. Everybody historically knows that Patton ran the supply chain all the time. Why did he do that? Why did he and his friends do that? They did that for each other, that's why. They weren't involved in the politics of it. They weren't there to liberate France. They weren't there to liberate Belgium or Poland or Holland. They were over there to be there for each other and help each other. That's what they were doing the whole time.
“Why did we come from Georgia to bring Francis here? Because he's our grandfather. We never met him, but he's still our father. He was our brother, so we brought him here for that, for him. Because he's one of us."
Troop 49 Scoutmaster Jack Coller directed his troop throughout the poignant ceremony.
“He is a man who committed his whole life to service of the community,” Coller said.
“He was an Eagle Scout, and so that's of course the highest honor that the Scouts offer. Then, he went into the military and served the military. And then after getting out of the military, still continued to serve military service members. You can't ask for anybody more dedicated to the community than this gentleman.”
"THIS MEANS EVERYTHING'
Members of the Peru Memorial VFW Post 309 conducted a flower ceremony graveside.
“When I learned that Francis was a lifelong Methodist, it made so much sense to me,” Rev. Peggi Eller, pastor of the Peru Community Church, said.
“For every oath that he took whether in the Scouts or to his country was to God always. As a Methodist all of his life, we are taught two things.
“One is to be in love with God, and the other is to serve others and bring justice into the world. And, his life was a tribute to both of those things.”
Two buglers played "Taps" from opposite sides of the cemetery.
American Legion Post 20 Honor Guard presented the veteran's folded flag to Boys Scout Eric Hidook.
“Receiving this flag meant the world to me,” he said.
“This ceremony, everything, this means everything this man has done for our country and for scouting as a whole. I can't be grateful enough for everything that went on today.”
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