Yesterday I joined several hundred others in paying tribute, and saying farewell, to E. Alton Reeves, Jr., one of Our "Greatest Generation." Alton's funeral service was inspirational and patriotic.
Alton was an active member of my church, First Baptist Peachtree City. That's how I met him. He and his wife, Evelyne knew everyone by name. Alton served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at various churches for 40 years, and assumed various leadership and committee roles as needed.
Alton was known at church, and elsewhere, as a natty dresser. His flashy style reflected his friendly, optimistic personality. Many of those giving tributes during the service commented on his brightly colored, patterned, and plaid jackets and pants. (His grandson and another friend were wearing two of his jackets at the service.)
Alton was the father of my friend, Robin, Father-in-law of Reed, and Grandfather ("DangDang") to his grandchildren: Katey and Adam (Courtney), and his three great-grandchildren: Micah, Wyatt, and Levi.
Alton was predeceased by his wife of 62 years, Evelyne, and his son Rick. Alton is survived by Rick's wife, Debbie, and their daughter, Whitney.
Alton was an entrepreneur who owned and operated a real estate company. His avocation was serving with the Kiwanis Club. Alton, his wife, and their family enjoyed traveling on Kiwanis trips and spending time together on St. Simon's Island, GA.
Alton served in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The funeral began with a recording of Alton telling the story of being forced to bail out of his plane over Austria. He watched his plane explode above him. As enemy planes sped toward him, presumably to sever his parachute or limbs. Alton prayed. Alton promised that if God let him survive, he would serve Him for the rest of his life. Alton did just that. He spent his life serving God while serving others.
Alton's son-in-love, Reed, and grandson, Adam, both gave moving tributes. Alton's granddaughter, Katey, read this prayer:
Today I want to thank You for blessing me with an exceptional man, known by many as Mr. Reeves but known by me as DangDang. While the name was different ... So was he. He followed You and through Your grace served You well as he promised parachuting from his plane in WW2. His service and faithfulness was a contagious attribute that will be carried on by many. And while his earthly moments are gone Your amazing grace is exalted through his life. Thank you Lord for giving me such a fine example of how to live, how to love and how to laugh. Each kiss on the cheek, each walk on the beach, each bike ride thru Saint Simons and each talk about life will forever be cherished. I admit, I'm a little jealous that I didn't get to hear Your welcoming in of DangDang to heaven. I can only imagine the joy in his eyes when he heard You say "well done, My good and faithful servant. Welcome home. " Please give him a kiss on the cheek from me and tell him, "I love you, kid."
The flag draped coffin at the front of the church was a dignified reminder of Alton's service to his country. The musical selections affirmed Alton's faith and patriotism. His daughter Robin, our former church pianist, played "How Great Thou Art." Cal Cheatham sang "America the Beautiful," starting with this verse:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Wayne Hall sang "There She Stands," accompanied by a video. (This isn't the actual video, but it gives you the flavor of the song and the lyrics.) Terry Killingsworth, who led the service, finished his portion with an a cappella hymn.
Alton's funeral service ended with the attendees standing as a trumpeter played "Taps," followed by Amazing Grace rendered by a bagpiper.
Alton, and the rest of The Greatest Generation paid a huge price as they kept the US secure, liberated Europe, saved the world from fascism, then rebuilt the countries they defeated. Their efforts gave us a legacy of freedom that does not seem to adequately appreciated by our younger generation. It is time for those of us who understand the sacrifice of the Greatest Generation to carry their torch and continue to stand up against tyranny.
Today, as E. Alton Reeve's Soul is celebrating in the Presence of God, his body will be buried with military honors. Alton's legacy will remain with all who knew him.