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Allen 'Red' Rhodes stands in a field of flags honoring American prisoners of war or missing in action at Gaskill Park in Mays Landing. Rhodes was active in several local veterans groups and worked to provide military honors at the funerals of veterans in the Mays Landing area.

Press photo by Dave Griffin, Sept. 17, 2010

Red Rhodes didn’t just celebrate “the big two” veterans’ holidays, says his friend and fellow vet, Bob McNulty.

Sure, Rhodes always honored Memorial Day, this weekend’s national holiday, and Veterans Day in November. But McNulty said Rhodes — who lived in Mays Landing and was 73 when he died early this month — “was one of the few people who went out of his way to recognize every veterans’ holiday.”

That included Pearl Harbor Day, “the attack on the Maine” — that’s the sinking of the USS Maine in Cuba, in 1898 — “the 9/11 attacks ... the Marine Corps’ birthday,” and more, McNulty said.

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“Memorial Day and Veterans Day are like Christmas and Easter,” added McNulty, who lives in Egg Harbor Township and met Rhodes in 1998, through shared work in veterans groups.

Rhodes, who never saw combat in 27 years in the Army but served in hot zones — the Berlin Wall and Korea among them — was active in many groups. He was a member and leader of his local chapters of the VFW, the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

He was so active, officials in his hometown appointed Rhodes chairman of Hamilton Township’s Veterans Advisory Board. And one thing his family was particularly proud of was that a lot of his work involved providing “military honors at the funerals of many veterans,” around Mays Landing, his obituary stated.

His wife, Audrey, emphasizes that all these activities were never just a way to keep busy or have fun for Red — who was born Allen Rhodes and called “Mickey” by his family as he grew up in Mays Landing.

“He was helping people,” Audrey said. “It wasn't like he was hanging out in the bar or anything.”

Their 1998 marriage was the second for both — Red was long divorced, and Audrey was a widow. And as an active member of her church, she could never get upset about all the time he put into his vets’ work — no matter how much time it was.

“He would go to the post every day like it was a 9-to-5 job,” Audrey said. “Sometimes he’d come home for dinner and go back at night. ... And sometimes he didn’t have time to come home, so I'd run his supper down to him.”

Still, even if he didn’t just pay attention to the biggest holidays, Red definitely did honor Memorial Day. His routine started days before, when he’d visit schools to explain the holiday’s meaning to kids. He would also decorate vets’ graves in several local cemeteries and go to at least two solemn ceremonies a year.

Except for the schools, Audrey planned to follow that full schedule this weekend. Of course, she knows she can’t replace Red, because as friends in his vets’ groups have told her, “He did the work of about four or five men.”

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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