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Local woman revives Memorial Day celebration

Residents find a moment of solace at the Johnson County Memorial Wall at Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City, TN, on Memorial Day, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Ellen Watkins organized the impromptu ceremony to ensure that the fallen are not forgotten. Photo By Tamas Mondovics

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Johnson County usually has a Memorial Day Service at Ralph Stout Park each year. Because of COVID-19, organizers canceled in 2020. The cause for dropping the 2021 service is still unknown. One local woman stepped up to make sure the fallen were respected this year by organizing an impromptu ceremony of her own.

Grassroots Specialist Ellen Watkins started planning a simple walk-through event after learning about the canceled ceremony. First, she reached out to the officials with authority over the event. Both local mayors and the regular event organizer approved the event. City Mayor Jerry Jordan agreed to attend and lead a community prayer as part of the event, but County Mayor Mike Taylor was out of town.

Watkins ordered small flags for the public with help from Helping Others, announced the event through social media, and reached out to The Tomahawk to help spread the word. Watkins only asked that people bring flowers to place at the base of the Memorial Wall in Ralph Stout Park during the event at 11 a.m. Someone added music to the ceremony through a Bluetooth speaker.

People on social media called Watkins a “true patriot” for her work. The public showed up in droves, and several local veterans attended to salute their fallen brethren.
The event was full of camaraderie and shared respect. Find out more about Watkins’ partner, nonprofit Helping Others, on its Facebook page or (423) 471-0381.