Hiawatha is preparing to celebrate a true patriot with Homer White Week July 30-Aug. 3.
The American Legion Homer White Post 66 is planning five days of celebrating a hometown hero who died in 1919 in a motorcycle accident as a military courier in Germany, following the official end of World War I. While Armistice Day was officially Nov. 11, 1918 to end the war, President Harding did not sign a joint declaration ending the war with Germany until July 1921 and the U.S. still had a military presence there.
Post 66 Public Relations Officer Bob Sines said the Post was named after White, one of seven Hiawathans to serve in World War I. He said this group of seven young men — all around the age of 17 — made a pact to return to Hiawatha alive and well after the war. Unfortunately, White — who served carrying communications on a motorcycle — was killed in action in 1919, while the other six young men returned home to Brown County.
White’s family took up collections to have his body returned home and on Aug. 3, 1919 — 100 years ago — his body was buried at Hiawatha Cemetery.
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the first World War, as well as the creation of the American Legion Charter, and the military funeral in Hiawatha for White. Sines told the commission that White’s funeral and procession through town was one of the most well-attended in Kansas, with visitors including state dignitaries, the governor, citizens and American Legion Posts from all over the area.
Homer White Week will bring back some of those memories, as well as celebrating 100 years of the American Legion and honoring White with a patriotic procession.
Sines is involving city and county officials, as well as organizations and wants the community to get involved. Earlier this week, more than 50 people gathered in front of the Brown County Courthouse to present proclamations, designating July 30-Aug. 3 as Homer White Week in Hiawatha.
Sines said there is much planned for this celebration:
Tuesday, July 30: Retailer’s specials and a window decoration contest in memory of Homer White, with a cash prize awarded
Wednesday, July 31: Lions Club burgers and dogs, games at 6 p.m. around the courthouse square
Thursday, Aug. 1: Fun at the Farm — Ag Museum/Historical Society picnic
Friday, Aug. 2: Countywide freewill donation banquet at 6:30 p.m. at the Fisher Community Center. Everyone welcomed for great food, social sharing, history replayed by special guests and a Homer White remembrance.
Saturday, Aug. 3: A Patriotic Procession at noon, from the courthouse square to the Hiawatha Cemetery — following a Color Guard, a flag-colored caisson, horse-drawn wagons and riders, military vehicles, Legion Patriot Riders, Christian riders, bicycle riders and walkers.
Sines said everyone in the community is encouraged to participate — as they did back in 1919 — especially for Saturday’s procession.
He said local and state officials also have been invited to participate. He said Legion wants to honor Homer White by not only this celebration, but by revitalizing his grave stone at Hiawatha Cemetery as well.
“We want to bring everyone together to help us celebrate a real hometown hero,” Sines said.