Naugles dedicated to serving community

By: 
JACKIE KOCH

Garna Naugle rides with the American Legion Auxiliary in the Memorial Day parade. Gary is pictured at Brookside Cemetery during the Memorial Day ceremony. Herald file photos

A sense of pride, belonging, and appreciation drive a Tecumseh couple to dedicate themselves to honoring local veterans and serving others. The years of public service demonstrated by Gary and Garna Naugle are a testament to what someone with a love of their community can accomplish, and that service is what has earned the couple the 2019 Musgrove Evans Award.

Vicki Riddle, executive director of the Tecumseh Area Chamber of Commerce, called the Naugle home on September 23, which was Gary’s birthday – but she was unaware of that coincidence. “She called and just asked Gary if he could come down,” Garna said. Gary figured it was something important, so he headed downtown.

“I went down there and went in her office, and she got up and shut the door behind me. I thought, ‘Oh, this is serious,’” he said. Then Riddle told him he had been nominated and chosen to receive this year’s Musgrove Evans Award, an honor given each year to someone who exemplifies service and dedication to the Tecumseh community.

“I didn’t believe her,” Gary said. “I just smiled and said, ‘Yeah, sure.’” Riddle had to convince him she was sincere, and told him he had to keep quiet about the award until it was released to the public, but that he could tell his wife. He asked Riddle to do it, so she called Garna on the phone. “I wasn’t surprised because I knew our daughter and at least one other person nominated him,” said Garna. “I figured he was a good fit.”

Then Riddle surprised Garna by telling her that she was also a recipient this year, and Gary revealed that it was fitting that they receive the news on his birthday, which pleased Riddle. “Then she got all excited,” he said. “She was as excited about being able to tell me on my birthday as I was.”

Both Naugles were born in the Tecumseh area and have stayed local and loyal their entire lives. Daughters Kim Kotts and Kerri Naugle live in the area, as well.

Before they retired, Garna taught math, social studies and reading at Tecumseh Middle School for 30 years and Gary drove a truck for Gentner Trucking for 30 years.  They have a wide variety of volunteer experiences, most notably, Gary’s involvement in organizing Tecumseh’s Memorial Day parade.

“We used to live on Chippewa Street, so we would go down to the corner there and watch the parade,” Garna said. “The kids were little. Every year he would say, ‘This parade should be more.’ He asked somebody about how you go about improving the parade, and the answer was, ‘Well, do you want to do it?’” What followed was his deep dive into organizing the parade and the program to follow, and he has been the parade marshal ever since. His favorite part of the Memorial Day programs at Brookside Cemetery and Macon Cemetery, which he has also taken on, is planning the programs and finding speakers for the events. He also arranges for flyovers that involve old planes, which are popular with spectators. “People like the old planes better,” he said.

Although neither Gary nor Garna are veterans, they both have family members who were in the service and they have always wanted to support veterans.

Garna joined Tecumseh’s Hall-Slater VFW Post 4187 Auxiliary and was only a member for about a year when she was nominated for president, then served in that role for three years from 2013-2016. Gary was a member of the former group Friends of the VFW that supported the Tecumseh VFW, as well as acting as the club manager for six or seven years, taking care of the canteen or bar area with the bar board to oversee hiring and other details. He has been an auxiliary member for more than 10 years.

He’s also a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which requires members to be a direct descendent of someone who fought in the Civil War. He has been past commander for six to seven years and received state and national recognition in 1997 from the organization for his work on Memorial Day programs.

Garna urged Gary to tell the story of how he came to be qualified to join the Sons of Union Veterans. “I have a great-great-great uncle who was a drummer in the Civil War,” he said. “He was 12 years old. He ran off and joined up.” The youth lived in the Jonesville/Coldwater area after moving from Macon and was known for being impulsive. “He’d ride the train with the troops when they’d take the new recruits to Detroit,” said Gary. “He kept wanting to join so they said he might as well.”

Gary’s other volunteer work has included a spot on the River Raisin Watershed Council, as a member of the executive board of Community Arts Tecumseh for a year when the organization was starting up, and as a member of the Lions Club for four years. He has served on Tecumseh City Council for 14 years, he thinks – it has been so long he’s lost count. He’s a member of the Tecumseh Masonic Lodge and is on the board of The Ashlar to oversee the building rentals and upkeep.

Projects he’s initiated at Brookside Cemetery include lighting for the Civil War monument, the World War I monument, and creating a monument for Desert Storm and for the Tecumseh police and fire departments. He gets so much accomplished because, “I’m not afraid of being told no,” he said.

Gary has been involved with the Tecumseh Area Historical Society for five years, and within a year of joining he became president. He enjoys the programs in spring and fall when children from local elementary schools come to the historical museum to learn about Native American history.

The Naugles will be honored along with others who contribute to the community at the Tecumseh Tributes ceremony Friday, Nov. 8 at The Ashlar.

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Tecumseh Herald

 

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