Retired Decatur teacher to lead Memorial Day observances again

Posted by Dena Mellick May 21, 2015
Memorial Day Chris Billingsley

The Decatur Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Chris Billingsley.

Retired Decatur High School social studies teacher Chris Billingsley is heading up Memorial Day observances in Decatur.

Last year, Billingsley and others stood in the rain at Decatur Cemetery, paying tribute to veterans buried there.

Billingsley told Decaturish that the City of Decatur has approved three Memorial Day activities, including one this evening.

He sent us the details:

If you would like to help place flags and/or flowers on the graves or memorials in the Decatur Cemetery for those who were killed while serving in the military as part of your Memorial Day Weekend activities, please contact Chris Billingsley. You can also show up for any of the following:

6:00 p.m., Thursday, May 21
Place flags on graves. Meet at the Veteran’s Rock in the new cemetery (enter Church St. gate and go to area above pond).

6:00 p.m., Sunday, May 24
Place Flowers On Graves. Meet at Veterans’s Rock.

5:00 p.m., Monday, May 25
Brief Remembrance Ceremony. Afterwards volunteers will pick up all flags and flowers from graves.

About Dena Mellick

Dena Mellick is the Associate Editor of

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  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dena. This weekend provides a great opportunity to visit the Decatur cemetery and spend time reflecting on the lives of those from Decatur who made the supreme sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today. One such person was “Roy Duffie, 1Lieut. Air Corp, Jan 8, 1943”, who is buried near the western road in the new cemetery. According to his obituary, Duffie graduated from DHS Boys High in 1935 and later from UGA where he was president of his fraternity Pi Kappa Phi his senior year. He was also very active in the work of Decatur First Baptist Church. He was the navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress when he “was killed in action against the Japanese somewhere in the South Pacific”. One of the pallbearers was his best friend from DHS Boys High, Lieutenant Ben Duke, who lost his life a few months later while serving as “a member of a fighter squadron in the South Pacific cited for gallantry”. Duke also graduated from UGA and was a leader in many student organizations including Alpha Xi Sigma, a social fraternity. Both Duffie and Duke are buried close to each other, Duke about twenty yards north of the Veterans Rock and Duffie about thirty yards north of Duke, forever best friends. You can look for an American flag near their monuments as well as a wing symbol on the stone symbolizing their service. Not far from Duffie is the grave of Colton Reynolds Clark Jr. Lieutenant Clark, a graduate of DHS Boys High, died when his pursuit plane crashed in San Francisco Bay. His last words to the radio tower were that he was going to crash into the bay in order to avoid hitting buildings in San Francisco. “His mother, who was on the way to see him, when news of his death was brought to her on the train, has returned home” according the obituary in the DeKalb New Era. His funeral was at Oakhurst Baptist Church.
    These are some of the stories about the boys from Decatur whose memory we honor this Memorial Day Weekend.

  • Chris Billingsley

    According to DeKalb war historian Leon S. Hollingsworth, “the City of Decatur topped in the number of (World War II) war dead with 65”. Many of these men are not buried in the City of Decatur cemetery. One such individual was Private John C. Freeman who grew up at 126 Melrose Avenue. He was “a former student at Decatur Boys High” and like many DHS students at the time, left before graduation to enter the service. “J.C.” was killed on June 6, 1944, D-Day, while on duty in France.
    The City of Decatur Memorial Day Weekend observance is an ongoing project where new heroes are honored every year. In 2014, I was led to the memorial for John C. Hollingsworth, commander of the U.S.S. Scamp which was lost at sea in 1944. This year, I have learned that Lieutenant Neil Springfield, who was killed in 1944 when his plane crashed into a mountain near Carlsbad Army Air Field in New Mexico, is buried somewhere in the Decatur Cemetery. “Lt. Springfield was on a night flight when his plane ran into a terrific electrical storm and as a result, crashed into the side of a mountain.” Springfield was a former student at Decatur Boys High, the Georgia Military Academy and Georgia Tech. According to his obituary, a funeral service was “held at Decatur First Baptist Church with internment in the Decatur Cemetery with full military honors. If anyone knows the location of Lt. Springfield’s grave, please contact me ASAP ( We would like to decorate his grave with a flag and a flower tonight at 6:00 this evening (Sunday).
    These are just a few of the stories about the Boys of Decatur who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy today. They should not be forgotten.

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