Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Funerals of Public Servants

Recently, we were honored to serve the family of Roy P. Meehan, Jr., who served on the Ellwood school board, city council, and two terms as mayor. Mr. Meehan was indeed a public servant and his funeral reflected this in many ways.

America has a long tradition of bidding its public servants farewell; for instance, John F. Kennedy’s state funeral in 1963. More recently, however, was the state funeral of Ronald Reagan in 2004. President Reagan’s funeral was the first state funeral since that of Lyndon Johnson in 1973 (Richard Nixon did not have a state funeral). The pomp and circumstance of President Reagan’s funeral rivaled even that of Princess Diana of Wales in 1997, and was broadcast on every major news network and viewed in millions of homes in the United States and across the globe.

All these funerals are tied together by the fact that not only were these great men and women public figures, but they were also husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. Their families were mourning their loss as well. So, when planning these funerals, it became necessary to not only to consider the needs and wishes of the immediate family, but also to remember that their loved one served the public, who is also mourning their loss and needs to be considered as well.

Mayor Meehan passed away at the Mary Evans Extended Care Center on Saturday, September 11, 2010. Flags all over Ellwood City were already at half staff that day in remembrance of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks nine years ago, but it was no coincidence that they were not raised the following day. By a proclamation from current Mayor Anthony Court, flags in Ellwood City remained at half staff in honor of former Mayor Meehan until Thursday, the day following his funeral.

His funeral arrangements called for two full days of calling hours to allow plenty of time for the public and government officials to pay their respects. Additionally, since as mayor, Mr. Meehan was the Commander-in-Chief of the Ellwood City Police Department, a uniformed officer was constantly at the head of Meehan’s casket as an honor guard.

Following the visitation at the funeral home, where the line of those wishing to pay their respects often stretched out the doors of the funeral home and onto the sidewalk, Meehan’s casket was taken to his home church of Christ Presbyterian Church for a funeral ceremony. An extra hour of visitation was held in the church’s parlor for anyone who was unable to make it to the funeral home, followed by a service more than an hour long.

Following the service, Meehan’s casket was carried down the front steps of the church by his grandchildren and the procession was taken by police escort through downtown Ellwood City. Officers from Ellwood City and neighboring municipalities blocked off every intersection that the procession was to proceed through. The procession entered Lawrence Avenue at Ninth Street and proceeded East until stopping in front of the Municipal Building for a moment of silence. The procession then traveled to Slippery Rock Presbyterian Church Cemetery Mausoleum for the committal and eventual entombment.

As a former holder of Ellwood City’s highest elected office, Mr. Meehan’s funeral was Ellwood City’s version of a state funeral, with all the proper pomp and circumstance. Hopefully, just as Ronald Reagan’s state funeral reminded the American people about the importance of a funeral, Mayor Meehan’s funeral will remind the people of Ellwood City just how important it is to honor those who pass on before us.

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