Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cole Spencer laid to rest

“Friendly,” “outgoing” and “nice” were three words frequently used Monday to describe Cole Spencer.

The 21-year-old Gays soldier, son of Mark and Candy Spencer, was buried Monday afternoon in Greenhill Cemetery in Sullivan following funeral services at the Calvary Baptist Church in Gays. Spencer was killed in action April 28 in Salman Pak, Iraq, while serving with the U.S. Army.

Flags lined the streets of Gays and hundreds turned out to say goodbye on the warm, sunny afternoon. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn offered state condolences at the funeral, and Pastor Bart Spencer, Cole Spencer’s uncle, officiated.

Quinn described Spencer as an “all-American hero.”

Quinn said Spencer was focused on the outdoors and hunted and fished often. He said Spencer was known to spend a lot of time at his grandparents’ farm hunting frogs and turtles.

“He lived life to the fullest and volunteered for our military and in the Old Testament, Isaiah, the prophet, refers to Oaks of Righteousness,” Quinn said. “Cole was a person of great faith and that came through very clearly at the funeral. He was an Oak of Righteousness for our country and all of us.”

Quinn also commented that the community “did itself proud” with its display of support through flags and a large crowd.

Several who attended said it was “a beautiful service.”

Sonny Ross of Gays said there was a large turnout.

“We had closed-circuit TV set up in two rooms and we had a full house everywhere,” Ross said.

He said songs included “It Is Well with My Soul,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Old Rugged Cross,” which was sung by three members of the Spencer family.

Spencer’s family also was presented with a Purple Heart, a military award given to those who have been wounded or killed.

Ross said Becky Spencer, Cole’s cousin, wrote and sang a special song for the fallen soldier called “Cole’s Song.”

Members of the military served as pallbearers.

Friends and community members lined Illinois Route 32 between Windsor and Sullivan, waving flags and holding signs thanking the soldier for the ultimate sacrifice.

The Patriot Guard Riders, military, various police and fire department personnel, including those from Charleston and Mattoon, and scores of family and friends were included in the funeral procession.

People in Sullivan also stopped around 3 p.m. to line both sides of Water Street, which leads to the cemetery, where two ladder trucks hoisting an American flag between them waited.

Memories of Spencer echoed throughout the street as friends met and waited for the funeral procession.

Cindy Guin of Sullivan said Spencer and her son attended kindergarten together.

“My son was upset the most,” Guin said. “He said Cole was a really nice kid. He should be honored in every sense.”

Janie Ross, wife of Sonny Ross, remembered Spencer as a nice person who loved the military and outdoors.

Janie Ross, a secretary at Heritage Baptist Academy in Gays, which Spencer attended, said she had known Spencer since he was 3 or 4 years old.

“He was easy to get along with,” Ross said. “He loved the military; it was exactly what he wanted to do.”

Pvt. Josh Gage, who attended the funeral, said Spencer was the type of person who rarely met a stranger.

“He was friendly, outgoing, not afraid to talk to anyone and not afraid to be their friend,” Gage said. “It’s a shame we had to lose him.”

Ross said Spencer is survived by a 16-year-old brother, Brian, who attends Heritage Baptist; a half-sister, Kari Martin of Lovington; his fiancée, Amy Purvis of Sullivan; and his parents.

Spencer was born Oct. 26, 1985, in Kokomo, Ind., and was an avid outdoorsman who loved to spend time at the River Farm with his friends and family.

Ross said she suspects the school will hold some kind of event in memory of Spencer, but no plans have been made yet.

Memorials are being made to the Cole Spencer Memorial Gymnasium fund at the school.

From the Journal Gazette

Related Link:
Cole E. Spencer dies of injuries from I.E.D.