ESTELL MANOR - For the first time since the cemetery opened in 1985, rain fell on the Veterans Memorial service at the Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery.
That was Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson's recollection, anyway, but Friday also happened to mark the dedication of the Richard E. Squires Pavilion, which provided a refuge for those gathered to honor veterans at the annual service.
"I'm more than happy to dedicate this pavilion to my dear friend and my predecessor," Levinson said of Squires, who served as county executive from 1984 to 1999. "There's nobody more unassuming or who has done more for this area than Dick Squires. ... What you see behind me is here because of the vision Dick Squires had. What could be more fitting than to unveil this pavilion and have a plaque to somebody who gave so much of his efforts to the community?"
Squires, who served on the USS Wisconsin during the Korean War, said the dedication is "a tremendous honor."
Thanking county employees who maintain the grounds of the secluded cemetery, Squires said: "Nothing can be more beautiful than what you see today. I really appreciate the honor, and the rest is up to the rest of the generations."
Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, an Army veteran of the Gulf War, gave the keynote address in his uniform.
"This afternoon we gather where valor sleeps," Brown said. "The men and women who rest here lived, served and sacrificed to uphold the values that make this country great. ... They fought for homes they may never return to, fought for buddies they'd never forget. While their stories may be separated by dozens of years and thousands of miles, here they rest side by side, row by row."
Before the ceremony, William Hazlett, of Egg Harbor Township, paid a visit to the grave of John Hazlett, an Army private during World War II who died in 2006.
"This is my brother," Hazlett said. He's been coming to the ceremony "since John's been here. It's peaceful."
Ed and Pat Hackett, of Northfield, have been coming to the service for five or six years, they said - and the unseasonably cold rain was not about to stop them.
"It's the meaning," Ed Hackett said. "Not the weather."
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