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May 25, 2014

Stephens County Historical Museum sets up Memorial Day exhibit

DUNCAN — Using items stored away and more recently donated, the Stephens County Historical Museum is set up for Memorial Day.

The museum created a temporary exhibit featuring the armed forces, especially those of World War II. The exhibit will be on display through July 4. The museum, which is typically closed on Mondays, will be open Memorial Day so people can view the exhibit.

“It was a fun exhibit to put together,” Cova Williams, museum director, said. “I had a lot of help. It’s another temporary museum to bring people to the museum. That’s what I love to do.”

For Williams, remembering Memorial Day is important because her father was a marine.

But she wasn’t the only person who appreciated the display. World War II veterans Bill Rice, who served in the Navy, and Odell Hooper, who was in the Air Force, expressed their gratitude Friday morning when they got to see the exhibit put together.

Rice and Hooper donated several items to the display, including a statue of the Lone Sailor and a copy of a newspaper article about Hooper’s time as a prisoner of war.

To the two veterans, Memorial Day has a deeper meaning.

“Heroes are the ones who don’t make it back,” Rice said.

Rice entered the Navy when he was 17. Before that, he was a self-described “plowboy.”

For Rice, his participation in the wartime effort was based on the country’s need.

“It was war time and they needed everyone and the cook,” he said.

Hooper left home when he was 15. He entering the Air Force in November 1942, being about the right age for the draft.

He chose the Air Force over the army and the navy. After his time in the military, he returned home to get his high school diploma.

To him, Memorial Day is about freedom.

“I’m free,” Hooper said. “I don’t have any worries at all.”

Since their time in the war, both men have gone on to provide service to people in the area.

Rice worked for several departments for the City of Duncan, including the Parks Department and the Fire Department, where he worked for 20 years. When he retired, a street (Rice Road) was named for him.

After getting his high school diploma, Hooper worked at Montgomery Wards for 32 years. He also received his real estate license from Cameron University and sold homes.

Both men expressed their appreciation of the Memorial Day exhibit and took pride in their war efforts being commemorated.

“I’ve had a good life,’ Hooper said. “I’ve been fortunate to work and to have good health.”

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