Sunday , 20 August 2017

McKinney’s Own WW II Veteran is Driving Force Behind the Pecan Grove Memorial Day Ceremony

By Angie Bado, TSB Publisher

Twenty-plus years is a long time to be planning and coordinating McKinney’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony at Pecan Grove Cemetery. But this year is no different for McKinney resident, Harry McKillop and the members of the Pecan Grove Cemetery Board of Trustees who have been busily putting together the annual event to commemorate those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country.  This year’s ceremony will be the 28th ceremony and happens to fall on the 28th day of May.

When McKillop and his wife Rebecca arrived in McKinney in 1987, looking to make McKinney their home, there was no thought of becoming an organizing force behind the annual Pecan Grover Memorial Day service. It just happened. The McKillops settled down in McKinney’s historic district and after attending McKinney’s Memorial Day Celebration and observing that only about 24 people were in attendance, McKillop felt it was time to get involved.

“Pecan Grove has so many soldiers buried there and every year to pay tribute to them is important,” McKillop said.  “It’s important that young people see this and understand that veterans contributed to McKinney’s development.  Our city founders are there (Pecan Grove).  The veterans returned from wars and built McKinney.”

McKillop, who still serves as President of the historic Pecan Grove Cemetery Board of Trustees, got a group together and began working on an annual ceremony that would build on the memories of those who had given so much to ensure the freedom of all Americans. He was the driving force behind the theme that appears on the program, “that they may never be forgotten.”

“Yeah, yeah, I did – I had the vision” (for the event) McKillop said.  “I stopped giving messages, but I just hope the public is aware of who is buried there and what part they played in the history of this area and in the freedom our country enjoys. “

McKinney resident and Board of Trustees member, Charles Rodgers, said that many parts of the program, such as the roll call, the tolling of the bell and the riderless horse tribute, were initiated by McKillop. He also enlisted the help of local Boy Scout Troop 303 to serve a BBQ buffet to all attendees following the event. 

“Harry is really a true patriot,” Rodgers said. “His dedication embodies the philosophy that is the motto of the ceremony ‘that they may never be forgotten.’”

McKillop himself was a Navy Lieutenant serving on the USS Phoenix during World War II, so the somber, meaningful service resonates with him. An avid historian, his service to the historic Pecan Grove Cemetery affords him the perfect avenue to combine his love of history and his patriotism. 

Rodgers elaborated, “Because of his (McKillop’s) dedication to this event we are able to show the appropriate appreciation for our veterans. This is something he strongly believes in.”

“The world changes, but if one doesn’t learn history, one cannot learn the lessons (from history). Remembering why all those troops and their families served our country is part of that history,” Rebecca McKillop commented.

As the father of 8 children, six boys and two girls, who live all over the country, McKillop will leave a lasting family legacy. The family has grown to 20 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. 

Over the years, he has served on various boards and had a hand in developing the guidelines for the preservation of the historic homes in McKinney. McKillop is still an active member of the Collin County Regional Airport Board, where he is currently working to bring a scheduled airline to operate shuttles in and out of the airport.

Although McKillop won’t be “giving a message” at the ceremony on Monday, he will certainly be in attendance and will deliver the welcome to the crowd, despite the fact that he now gets around in a wheelchair.

McKillop shared these words of advice for the younger generation.  “Don’t ever stop working. I know I’d be lost if I stopped working. You want to be involved and have a sense of purpose. It’s good to stay involved.”

Catherine Hughes, McKillops assistant, reiterated, “It (working) keeps your vision in front of you.”

“I’ve stopped making plans – I just live every day as it comes,” McKillop said with a chuckle. 

McKillop may have stopped making plans, but he has obviously taken his own advice and has kept working and staying involved – very involved. 

The mission of the Board of Trustees is to preserve the History of Collin County and educate the younger generation of the history that he believes begins within the Cemetery. For more information please visit the website.

About the Pecan Grove Memorial Day Program:

The 28TH annual Memorial Day Celebration at Pecan Grover Cemetery will be held at the cemetary at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 28th.  Special guests will be McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller, Judge Keith Self of the Collin County Commissioner’s Court, Congressman Sam Johnson and Congressman Ralph Hall. 
 

Directions

Heading south on US-75
Take exit 38A to merge onto TX-121 S toward Ft Worth.
Take a sharp left at TX-121 N
Continue onto TX-399 Spur E for .9 miles
Continue onto S McDonald St for 1.3 miles
Pecan Grove Cemetery will be on the right.

Heading north on US-75
Take exit 38A toward TX-5.
Merge onto TX-399 Spur E for .9 miles
Continue onto S McDonald St for 1.3 miles
Pecan Grove Cemetery will be on the right.

Photos Courtesy of Pecan Grove website
Top: Congressman Ralph Hall talks with ceremony guests

 

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