AVON — The graveside service was brief and 14 years late, but it was a testament to the bonds of a lifelong friendship.
Fredrick James Matter was honored with a memorial service by the Avon Lake American Legion Post 211 on a cold March morning that saw the ground around his Elmhurst Park Cemetery grave marked by a dusting of snow.
For Tom Moore, 86, it was a matter of doing the right thing for a man he’d known since childhood and served with during World War II.
“When I went up to the grave, I was surprised there was no headstone,” Moore said.
A corporal in the Army Air Corps, Matter died in 1998 but never received a veteran’s grave marker. Neither Moore nor anyone else knows the exact reasons for the oversight, but he always knew it was something that needed to be rectified.
“I just felt there should be a headstone and there wasn’t any,” Moore said. “We were very good friends.”
The 11 a.m. ceremony Friday took place in chilly temperatures in the 20s.
A group of approximately a half dozen people walked from vehicles parked on the cemetery’s road up a slight incline to a green tent that shielded them from the elements during the service.
Despite the chill, Larry Shepherd, the Honor Guard’s piper, stood at attention in a Scottish kilt, playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
The memorial service included prayers by Post Chaplain Jake Lundy, the traditional firing of three volleys by the post Honor Guard, and the poignant playing of taps by a post bugler.
The service concluded with an American flag being presented to Moore and his wife, Pauline, by Post 211’s Service Officer Al Pina, who helped Moore get a U.S. government grave marker from the Veterans Administration for Matter.
Pina also obtained a burial flag from John Shook of Busch Funeral Home in Avon Lake.
The service is typical of observances the post undertakes to honor veterans. Most recently, the Honor Guard has been present to receive the remains of military personnel who returned to Northeast Ohio from the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict.
Matter, who was in his 80s when he died, never married, according to Moore, and had no living family members at the time of his death. His parents and a brother, Joe, who was killed in action in France on Dec. 27, 1944, are buried within feet of Matter’s grave.
During the war, Moore and Matter served stateside.
They had known each other since childhood, and went through school together in Lakewood.
“I had been shipped to Amarillo, Texas, and Jim came in from a California base, and all of a sudden we met each other,” Moore said.
The buddies went through a B-29 bomber maintenance school together in Texas. When the war ended, they re-upped for a year with the hope of finally getting to serve somewhere overseas through the Overseas Replacement Bureau.
Again, their plans were denied.
“They asked for volunteers and we did (volunteer),” Moore said.
Instead, they wound up working in a military payroll office in North Carolina before being discharged from the service at the end of 1946.
Over the years, Matter and Moore remained close, even if they didn’t see each other all that often.
“We’d talk and see each other on occasion when we had lunch with a group from Lakewood,” Moore said. “We just got along.’’
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or email@example.com.