Ever go to the National Cemetery in Chattanooga at holiday season, like Veterans Day or Memorial Day for a service, or even just drive by at Christmas? Well if you did you may have seen a small group of elderly white haired ladies dressed in their "uniform" of yellow and white, sporting a matching yellow military style cap as well. Sitting up front directing them, and worrying about "her ladies", would be a little old lady with obvious coal black hair ( but don't call her old where she might hear you). Her name was Flora Lee Kernea, but everyone that knew her just called her Flo.
She had been elected and reelected for years as president of the Gold Star Wives of America, Magnolia Chapter, of Military Widows in the Chattanooga area. She was a talker, and a "bulldog". When it came to calling on and confronting military brass, politicians, and especially VA leadership, over the years, she was relentless in her efforts to get help and benefits for her ladies. That was her calling in life, and she spent every waking day working to help these mostly frail, poor and needy war widows get the help and benefits they deserved. The ones that our government seems to have forgotten over the years, were it not for the relentless pursuits of people like Flo and her little army.
If you drove by the National Cemetery off 1200 Bailey Ave. at Christmas time, you might see close to 90-year-old Flo, her volunteers, and others placing wreaths on the graves of our fallen and deceased veterans. In fact, those widows that couldn't afford the $15 for a Christmas wreath themselves, Flo dug into her small bank account, adding to it the contributions from others that knew of her and her mission, to make sure that not one of their husbands was forgotten.
Some of us were looking this week to purchase a motorized wheelchair with lift for her after her near death case of COVID that kept her hospitalized for nearly a month. We almost lost her then, but she was a fighter and I knew her well enough to say she was determined to live, because after all "who would look out after my ladies", she would say. Well fight as she did. She began to weaken and on her way in to see her doctor this morning, sitting in her wheelchair, as she was being wheeled in by her daughter Donna, our precious Flo passed into heaven.
We all loved her and will miss her deeply. As our Bible says, "Well done my good and faithful servant." Welcome.