Korean president thanks veteran

Published 8:25 am Friday, February 4, 2011

Merritt Raiford recently received a letter from Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak thanking the Courtland man for his efforts during the Korean War and inviting him to visit.

The Korean government for 36 years has been inviting Korean War veterans every year as part of its Revisit Korea Program.

“We Koreans made a promise to build a strong and prosperous country that upholds peace and freedom,” Myung-bak wrote. “Korea today is a vibrant democracy with a robust economy, and we are actively promoting peace and stability around the world.”

A nearly lifelong Southampton County resident, Merritt was a second lieutenant in the Air Force ROTC, serving from Aug. 2, 1951, to Aug. 2, 1954, after graduating from Virginia Tech in 1951.

He spent most of his time in Alaska, working in defense command.

Merritt said he was surprised to hear from the Korean president.

“He seems to be a mighty nice person,” he said.

Merritt and his wife of 51 years, Mary, are the parents of Lynn King of Rawlings and Dan Merritt of Burdette. They also have five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Merritt is retired from Royster Co. in Norfolk and Virginia-Carolina Farmers Peanut Cooperative in Franklin.

• East Pavilion resident Barbara Malone recently instructed a “cooking class” at the Franklin nursing home.

She enjoyed showing residents how to make dough and roll it while filling it with sweet potatoes. Then she mashed the edges with a fork and cut off the excess dough. This was her demonstration for making potato jacks.

Another resident, who also used to enjoy making them, will demonstrate her method at the next cooking class.

• Suffolk News-Herald News Editor Tracy Agnew recently wrote a story about Franklin’s Pat Smith, who was once told by a co-worker that she was crazy for participating in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge.

But to Pat, the annual early February dive into the Atlantic Ocean wearing only a swimsuit is all for a good cause — and because of her son, Ethan.

“We’ve been in it about seven years,” Smith said of the Special Olympics.

Her 17-year-old son has autism. His mother got him involved in Special Olympics for the socialization and physical fitness. Ethan participates in bowling, swimming and golf with the Suffolk Area 29 Special Olympics.

Special Olympics coaches are all volunteers, and everything is run on donations. Money raised by Suffolk-area athletes comes back to the group in the form of equipment, uniforms and lodging at events.

To find out more about the Plunge or to register, visit www.polarplunge.com.