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Ceremony honors Scottown victims

SCOTTOWN – Remembrance was the theme Tuesday in a community that was struck by tragedy five years ago.

Thursday, July 05, 2001

SCOTTOWN – Remembrance was the theme Tuesday in a community that was struck by tragedy five years ago.

Between 50 and 75 people – young and old -from Lawrence County and surrounding areas, gathered at the Scottown Fireworks Memorial to reflect on the fire at Ohio River Fireworks and the nine lives lost in the tragedy.

The flag flew at half-staff. It was raised in a ceremony led by Chesapeake’s American Legion Post 640 and VFW Post 2761 and AMVETS Post 141, both based in Willow Wood.

The memorial was surrounded by the veterans and Huntington’s Fraternal Order of Eagles 2320, the group that erected the memorial a year ago.

Pastor Earl Nichols prayed for those attending the service and for the families that lost loved ones.

"We pray, Lord, bless the families bless their hearts," Nichols said.

Many attending and participating in the event were friends or family members of the victims.

Marty Martin, American Legion Post 640 First Vice Commander, said his life was touched by the events at the fireworks store. Kathlene Wilks, who died at the fire, was a friend of his and "a good friend of veterans," Martin said. This woman, who volunteered at the VA Medical Center, was also honored by a brick placed in her memory at the Veteran’s Memorial in Chesapeake.

Wilks’ daughter, Marcie Smoot, was there with a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and other items related to the event that was displayed next to the monument.

"Everything I found I put in there," she said. "Anything to do with fireworks I put in there."

The scrapbook was filled with accounts published in the local newspapers as well as those from the Columbus Dispatch, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune and any other newspaper she could find. She is now starting to fill a second book.

Smoot said she did not know why she started collecting the stories written about the event and other reports about fireworks.

"It’s just something to look back on," she said.

Many others at the event felt that remembering the accident is important.

The ceremony conveys to the families of the victims and the community that the fire and the victims have not been forgotten, Eagles Trustee Troy Ellis said.

"We’re going to try to be here every year from now on," Gary Rucker, former president of the Eagles, said.

Another member of the Eagles, Trustee John Mays, said he also felt the yearly memorial service is important.

"If we do this every year, they won’t be forgotten," he said.

The Proctorville resident, who had been planning to go to Ohio River Fireworks the day of the fire, said he heard about the fire on his scanner and immediately went to the burning store to help.

"It was just the awfullest (sic) thing I’ve ever seen."

When people in Scottown obtained the land for a memorial, the Eagles sponsored the building of the memorial last year and funded this years additions: a plaque on the back of the monument explaining the its meaning and white park benches in front of it.

Mays, along with fellow Eagles Trustee Ray Smoot, place the plaque a few days before the ceremony.

"It was a great feeling," he said.

The Eagles, with the help of their ladies auxiliary, plans to add to the memorial each year.

"Anything they need we’ll do," Rucker said.