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Veterans, Council, and Community Give Veteran Proper Burial

By Staff | Apr 21, 2018

A deceased veteran will be laid to rest with respect thanks to the Wetzel County Democratic Executive Committee Veterans and Military Families Council and fellow residents.

In a social media post, Frances Headley, chair of the WCDEC Veterans and Military Council, reported she was contacted by members of the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office after they discovered the late 63-year-old Leroy McElrath of Texas. Headley said Deputy Dave Howell, Deputy Cody Elliot and Corporal Roger Spragg, of the WCSO, had found a Disabled American Veterans Card in the deceased man’s wallet and wanted to make sure everyone knew McElrath was a veteran.

According to Headley, it was discovered McElrath had been living in a 10×20 foot outbuilding with no running water, electricity, or heat. The building was located off of Sheep Run Road in Jacksonburg.

Headley said Wetzel County Medical Examiner Carla McBee “worked tirelessly” to search and located McElrath’s next of kin. McBee confirmed McElrath’s next of kin were not able to claim his body. McBee reviewed McElrath’s medical records with the Disabled American Veterans and confirmed he was an Honorably Discharged Disabled American Veteran.

Headley said “with tremendous help from friends this Disabled American Veteran, Mr. Leroy McElrath, who before West Virginia called Midland Texas home, will be laid to rest at the Knights of Pythias Cemetery.” Services are scheduled for April 22, 2 p.m. Headley said the Blue Blazers from VFW Post 6327 of Sistersville would provide full Honor Guard Services.

Headley said the West Virginia Patriot Guard has been called into action by member Pat Minor Dawson, who stepped up with Michael Whitlatch and Susan Whitlatch to organize an honor ride and flag line for McElrath. Headley said Mike and Susan will serve as Honor Ride Captains.

Ritchie and David Palmer, of Palmer’s Funeral Home in Pine Grove, are also credited for their help in giving McElrath final respects. Headley reported the Palmers reached out to the Cemetery management and explained the situation. A free burial plot was provided for McElrath.

“With nobody to claim Mr. McElrath, there was nobody to file for Death Benefits, so without the kind hearts of the Palmer Brothers and the Cemetary there would be no burial or graveside services to lay him to rest honorably. In the absence of someone to file for Death Benefits, I say thank you to those who have already donated to pay for the casket and graveside services,” Headley said.

Headley said Council Member and Army Veteran Kimberly Shatney will proceed with contacting the Veterans Administration to file Death Benefits on behalf of Palmer Funeral Home. Furthermore, the Valley High School’s Sportsman’s Club, advised by Kristi Earley and Donald Bordenkircher, are purchasing replacement dog tags for Mr. McElrath.

Headley also thanked the Council’s co-chair, Cecile Doiron Fiest, along with Shatney and Edna Travis of the Council.

The WCDEC Veterans and Military Council can be reached at 304-455-5328.