Ontario-Yates Hospice volunteers honor veterans' service in their final days with a special ceremony

Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day — call it what you will, the intent of the Nov. 11 holiday is the same: to honor those who have served their nation and risked all in its defense. In the United States, with Memorial Day to remember those veterans who have died, we designate Veterans Day to honor those still living. But one group has made it their special mission to be sure veterans in their final day are aware of their nation’s gratitude, “and that no vet should ever die alone.”

Ontario-Yates Hospice volunteers, with the impetus of Col. Michael J. Healy (ret.) and his wife, Kimiyo, created a fund and established the “We Honor Veterans” program 2 1/2 years ago for the local hospice organization. “We Honor Veterans” is a nationally certified recognition program sponsored by the Veterans Administration, but supported only by charitable contributions and the efforts of the volunteers.

In October, the volunteers honored Navy Commander Dale F. Mueller, 94, of Penn Yan, a veteran of two wars. The ceremony in his home consisted of the presentation of a U.S. flag pin, a flag lap throw, a framed certificate thanking him for his service, a reading of “The Sailor’s Creed,” and saluting him in the presence of four of his children there with him.

Mueller was a student at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana when he enlisted in the Marine Corps just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. After his training and being assigned to the Pacific Theater, Mueller learned he’d been appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated early and married Miss Elaine Mills on that same day in in June 1945, then joined his ship, the USS San Diego. He spent his active duty years stationed at Nagasaki in occupied Japan, leaving active service in 1949. When the Naval Reserves were called up in 1951 for the Korean conflict, Mueller left his career as a math teacher in Illinois and served another two years at sea in active duty until 1953. Mueller died Oct. 24 after a long battle with cancer.

One of his daughters, Mary Zelazny of Penn Yan, says Mueller loved the We Honor Veterans ceremony. “He was always very proud of his military service,” she said.

With many of our “Greatest Generation” Veterans nearing the end of life, the Ontario-Yates volunteers efforts are especially appreciated. Just recently, the volunteers also honored another Navy Veteran of the World War II era, longtime Hobart-William Smith soccer coach W. Raymond “Radar” Demuth, who died Nov. 4, the day after his We Honor Veterans ceremony.

To contribute to, volunteer for, or learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, contact Jackie Coates at 585-787-8315, or write to:

Ontario-Yates Hospice, 756 Pre-Emption Roa, Geneva, N.Y. 14456