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The Suburbanite
  • Educators, veterans honored at Field of Honor/Field of Heroes program

  • Mel Herncane, a retired Jackson High School history teacher, found a hero in the eighth-grade U.S. history teacher who taught him in Massillon decades ago. Herncane recognized his hero at the high school Saturday during the opening ceremony  for the Field of Honor/Field of Heroes — a display of 1,300 flags at th...
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  • Mel Herncane, a retired Jackson High School history teacher, found a hero in the eighth-grade U.S. history teacher who taught him in Massillon decades ago.
    Herncane credits Clarence Young — whom he described as “the best teacher that ever lived” — with solidifying his own career path at age 13. And on Saturday, Herncane, honorary chairman of the second annual Field of Honor/Field of Heroes display, could finally do something to thank him.
    “I owe all of that to the guy whose flag flies at the safety building today,” he said.
    Herncane recognized his hero at the high school Saturday during the opening ceremony  for the Field of Honor/Field of Heroes — a display of 1,300 flags at the Jackson Township Safety Center. About 80 people gathered in the high school auditorium to offer thanks to educators and veterans through musical performances and speeches.
    Fred Locker, choral director for the high school, was honored as a hero of Jackson High School. Locker, who is retiring, has worked at the school for 25 years. Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto praised Locker for inspiring students to study music at major universities and for taking choral groups to statewide contests where they’ve earned top ratings.  
    As Locker walked up to receive his award, members of the audience rose and gave him a standing ovation. He remembered stepping onto the auditorium stage for the first time during his interview and thinking about everything he’d be able to accomplish at the school.
    “It has been an honor to be here and bring this room and this building to life,” he said Saturday.
    In addition to teachers, the ceremony also lauded veterans. Those in attendance honored four-star Gen. Donn A. Starry, a man known for his leadership during a 40-year career that took him to Vietnam, Cambodia and Germany.  
    His wife, Karen Deitrick Starry, said he would have found the morning’s event touching because he was living in Jackson Township when he died in 2011 and had enjoyed his time there.
    Others took to the Field of Honor/Field of Heroes to remember their veterans. After the ceremony Saturday, Jan Raabe, of Jackson Township, walked through the rows of flags on display at the safety center. She paused to have her photo taken with the flag that commemorates her father, a World War II veteran, who died three weeks ago. Raabe said he would have seen the field as a fitting tribute. “He was such an American, and he was a patriot,” she said.
    Jean and Bob Triner, of Jackson Township, bought a flag to honor their son, a retired Marine who lives in Pennsylvania. After watching a volunteer affix a card with their son’s name to the flag, Jean Triner called the display “breathtaking.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s just hard to explain,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
    A few rows away, Cynthia Schall and her mother, Betty Ayers, admired the flags from their car and snapped photos using a cellphone Schall held out the window.
    They drove from Massillon to see the display because several members of their family have served in the military, including Ayers’ husband and Schall’s father, who was an Army veteran. The scene elicited an emotional response from them both. “It gets to our hearts,” Schall said.
    A few hundred flags still are available for purchase at the event. The flags will fly until 1 p.m. Monday, and the display is lighted through the night.