Memorial Day service at Deer Creek focuses on remembrance

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 5/31/23

DEER   —   Sunday’s Memorial Day service at Deer Creek Cemetery drew a good crowd for a celebration that began inside St. Peters Church — founded on Sept. 27, 1866 — …

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Memorial Day service at Deer Creek focuses on remembrance


DEER    Sunday’s Memorial Day service at Deer Creek Cemetery drew a good crowd for a celebration that began inside St. Peters Church — founded on Sept. 27, 1866 — and ended with a graveside service with American Legion Post 506 members.

While pondering what to say on this occasion, Deer Creek Cemetery Association President Cheryl Hicks said she thought about past Memorial Day gatherings she had enjoyed.

“Some of the first things that came to mind were all the food there used to be at the basket dinner,” said Hicks. “Emily Carsten’s homemade doughnuts, the fried chicken, and all the different pies; it was like heaven.”

She added it was always a treat to see her cousins playing hide-and-seek, daring each other to go into the outhouse, and scrambling for spent bullet-casings with which to whistle.

“Of course, who can forget the haunting sounds of Taps or the reverberating salute to the dead over the hills?” Hicks said. “Memorial Day is more than childhood memories, though, or mattress sales. It’s about remembering those that have sacrificed for our freedom.”

While considering her thoughts at home, Hicks saw a phrase from the Wounded Warrior Project: “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”

Hicks added that remembering is the most important thing one can do on Memorial Day. She noted that the word “remembering” is mentioned in the Bible 352 times, and different variations appear 550 times. Love is mentioned 714 times. “Remembrance is a somewhat important concept to God,” she said. “To remember God’s goodness moves us to respond to our world in hope rather than fear. It enables us to stop focusing on the impossible and, instead, focus on the God that does the impossible.

“Memories provide a sense of continuity, of our lives going on, of seeing that as we come through dark times, we can get through them with the assurance that God loves us and is caring for us,” Hicks added. “Remembering isn’t passive; it’s an action that can bring confidence into our lives.”

American Legion 506 Commander Steve Duncan led the graveside service. “Comrades, this day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those who have gone before us,” he said. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of our country and of those who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and gone to their eternal rest. May the ceremonies of today deepen your reverence for our dead. Let us renew our pledge of loyalty to our country and its flag. Let us resolve by word and deed to emphasize the privilege and duty of patriotism.”

Duncan added that when peril threatened and their country called, with divine self-sacrifice, “veterans left their paths of peace to spring to arms, to make their breasts a barricade against nation’s foes.

“No sorrow for the loved ones left behind,” he continued. “No weariness of march and watch could keep them from their hearts’ desire. No horror of the field, sea, or air could beat their courage down. They fought for us; for us, they fell. Now with one accord, in deepest reverence, we do them honor. Let us not remember them in anguish; they would not wish our pity. For their sake, let us not forget the loved ones left behind. Our tears or words of sympathy cannot bring back the comfort of those loving hands or the music of those voices stilled. Only the solemn pride of having given more than all the rest is theirs who live to weep. But all the world, because of what they gave, is indebted to them.”

Duncan encouraged everyone gathered at Deer Creek Cemetery to pledge patriotic service. “Let us make ourselves the friend and brother, son and father, of those who will not see their own again in mortal flesh,” said Duncan. “Let us grasp with fearless hands the flag so nobly borne before, and, like those others, plant it firmly on the battlements of righteousness. All who stand with us today, will you not consecrate yourselves with us to emulate their sacred service that those who rest in heroes’ graves may not have died in vain?”

Rhonda Mitchem and Sabra Paulsmeyer read the names of veterans buried at Deer Creek Cemetery, and a moment of silence was held.

Chamois graduate Waylon Carter performed Taps to close the ceremony.

According to a history of St. Peters provided by Susan Sundermeyer, the church was founded by six men who wanted a church like those in Germany. They joined with German Methodists to construct a building at Bode, between Deer and Chamois. In a few years, they erected the Union Church at Deer, which housed Evangelicals, Methodists, and German Baptists.

In 1867, the German Evangelical St. Peters Church was built on 20 acres, purchased from Fritz and Emilia Humbler for $100. Initially 20 feet by 32 feet, an eight-foot addition was constructed, along with a steeple (with bell) measuring eight by nine by 40 feet. Rev. Shierbaum of Stople was the first pastor.

Evangelicals used Sunday School to teach German reading, writing, spelling, and memorization. In reading class, they read Bible stories. Afternoon church services continued to use German well into the 1920s.

In 1885, Germans in the Missouri River Bottoms built St. John’s in Chamois, and hopes were high to share a pastor, but that didn’t work out. Two services were held each month at St. Peters by St. John’s pastor.

A 50th-anniversary celebration was held in 1915 with 65 members on the rolls. Morning and afternoon services were held, with a basket dinner following.

On May 29, 1921, the Young Peoples League of Deer was organized with 21 members.

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered on Oct. 23, 1921, for the funeral of native Private Benjamin Czeschin, who was killed in the Argonne Battle on Nov. 18, 1918.

Membership declined over the years, and on March 6, 1953, the process of combining St. Peters and St. John’s into one congregation began as recommended by the Missouri Valley Synod.

Services are still held each Memorial Day, and St. John’s holds services twice a year, once on the fourth Sunday in September and the other on the first Sunday of Advent, when the church is heated with a wood stove and lit with lanterns.

A Memorial Day service was also held at the Chamois Public Cemetery on Sunday.