Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Age Won't Stop Him from Honoring Fellow Veterans

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Age Won't Stop Him from Honoring Fellow Veterans

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

BRUNSWICK - With his fist full of American flags and leaning heavily on a cane, Ray Keithcart set out slowly across the cemetery at Emanuel United Methodist Church on Tuesday.

For 20 years he has gone to rural cemeteries putting Memorial Day flags on the graves of veterans. This is the first year with a cane and a right side that can't keep pace.

"Don't get old," he advised, "and don't have a stroke. I move like an old man."

Nearing a grave with a faded flag, Keithcart said, "There's one right there. That's Long."

The monument for James Long, a former Army captain who died in 1980, sits among others etched with long histories in Glynn County. Caves, Bennetts, Ratcliffs, McGregors and more. The fresh flags will identify those who did something in their country's history.

The man who laughs over forgetting where he left his keys still remembers year-to-year where the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are buried.

"It generally takes 3 to 3 1/2 hours to make the whole circuit," he said of his rounds to 83 graves in 11 county cemeteries.

That was before the stroke. Now it would probably take him an hour just at Emanuel Methodist, where he is working alone. He's had some help. His daughter, Kaleen Dixon, helped Monday during a stopover on a sailing trip. His son, Kerry, who just retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, helped last year.

After Emanuel, Keithcart settled into his Saturn and drove the short distance to the private Maxwell Cemetery. The graves of World War I veterans Alvin Maxwell and Frank T. Harrison were easy to find, but that of a third veteran was not. A flag fluttering beside a blank concrete slab was replaced with a new one, as well as the hope it was the right grave.

After every stop, Keithcart, thin with a neat military haircut, had to rest in his seat, gathering himself and some air before driving on.

His children worry about him on the road. Needlessly, he says. After all, he landed fighter planes on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II. Even at 85 and with the stroke's lingering effects, guiding a car over asphalt poses no challenge for his still-steady hands. …

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