Community comes together for Veterans Breakfast

Volunteers dished out bacon, eggs, sausage and dried beef at the Veterans Breakfast.
Volunteers dished out bacon, eggs, sausage and dried beef at the Veterans Breakfast. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

OXFORD >> When it appeared last year that there would be no veterans breakfast, the community pulled together and produced a first class gathering early in November.

This year, it was almost the same story, after Oxford Area Senior Center Director Jim McLeod told veterans supporter Clarissa Sherrow that the dining room at the center had been reserved for Saturday, but it appeared that no one had any activity planned.

Hearing that,she said she was not going to let the veterans go a year without the honor.

“A small town is how you get things done. Oxford has the support of things like this,” organizer Clarissa Sherrow said.

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When it was clear that things had to get organized to continue this tradition of six or seven years, U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Trevor Derr, who lives locally, immediately set up a Go Fund Me page to collect money for the event that successfully materialized on Saturday morning at the senior center. He was joined by Mike Peak, caterer Joe Dea and Sherrow in what they called a gathering rather than a “committee.”

The “committee” members spread the word around town by fliers, social media and word of mouth, and miraculously money and offers of help started pouring in.

When 7 a.m. Saturday morning came, they were ready with all varieties of breakfast food, souvenir pins and Boy Scout assistants. By 9 a.m.

Additionally, young volunteers had made thank you cards for everyone, and other children created a banner of red, white and blue hand prints to form a flag in front of the food table. Later, Chester County Veterans Affairs head Lawrence Davidson stopped in from West Chester to answer questions the veterans had about benefits and assistance.

Sherrow was estimating that they were on there way to serving more than 150 veterans and their guests — more than last year.

For the guests, it was an enjoyable time to eat a free breakfast, feel honored and share old war stories.

Probably the oldest attendee was Franklin Ritchie, 90, a World War II veteran who joined the U.S. Navy when he was 17.

He said he worked on a hospital shop in the engine room in China.

What he remembers most is that the enemy had floated explosive mines out that attached to the side of the ship, and the crew had to get them loose and disable them.

His nephew, Donald Ritchie, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam Conflict sat with him at breakfast and recalled coming home.

Like many in his situation, he said Vietnam returnees were not well appreciated, especially in California. He said his family gave him a welcome home party, but that was about it.

“I was watching the (Ken Burns) documentary on Vietnam and I missed the last episode about Jane Fonda. I’m glad I missed it,” he said.

Visible among the volunteers were several Boy Scout troops whose members cleared the tables, hung up people’s coats and general helped out where help was needed. They also gave out ceremonial lapel pins that bore an image of the American Flag and were inset with insignias of the five branches of the service. Those were donated by Exelon in Kennett Square.

The Veteran’s Breakfast was founded by the Oxford Enhancement Committee, but lost its momentum when its head, Buddy McCoury died. Since then the event has been carried on by volunteers in a virtually seamless manner.

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .