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Oak Harbor mourns with nation

While former President Ronald Reagan was being eulogized in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Friday, mourners gathered at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Oak Harbor for a special mass in his honor.

Father Ronald Belisle led the mass on the national day of mourning, and shared a few thoughts about Reagan in a short sermon.

“Where on the gauge do our feelings about Ronald Reagan register?” he asked. “I would say somewhere between the flag flying at half-mast, to the bowl of candies that have been renamed ‘Ronnie Beans.’”

It was a light moment on a somber occasion.

“Today our nation honors a man who led our country for eight years, flawed like all of us, but a person with deep-rooted convictions that led the USA through a pivotal point of history,” he read.

He depicted Reagan as a man of “easy grace and endless hope,” whose hair would never turn gray, “the eternal optimist in whom hope was a pair of lenses we all had to wear.”

Belisle said Reagan was religious, but not in a formal way. Religious themes laced many of the president’s speeches, as when he spoke following the space shuttle Challenger disaster: “They prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

Belisle said while Reagan’s role in the overthrow of the “Evil Empire” — a phrase he also coined — will be his lasting legacy, “the death of Mr. Reagan gives us cause to pray for our country, that peace may be restored, that values may be treasured, that God will indeed bless America.”

Celebrants left the church to the sound of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and gathered in small groups to share their feelings about the late president before going back to their daily routines.

“He did what he thought was right and he stuck to his guns,” Ret. Adm. Jim Foxglover said.

Al Cornet called Reagan a role model — “unlike some recent examples of the presidency,” he added. “He faced enormous challenges in the world.”

Richard Cronin remembered Reagan as one of the great presidents.

“He brought pride back to America,” he said.

Katie Keifer, Barb Dumit, Doris Wasilewski and Connie Sheehan paused to reflect on what Reagan meant to American, and what current world leaders could learn from his example.

Dumit appreciated his positive attitude toward life, and how that showed in his leadership style. Kiefer admired his morals and intelligence.

“Leaders (today) could learn to follow his morals,” she said.

Wasilewski noted that God was a part of Reagan’s life, and that as they spoke his official funeral was being held in Washington’s National Cathedral.

“You can’t eliminate God from our country,” she said. “It’s one nation under God.”

Adm. Foxglover added a piece of advice for presidents and citizens alike.

“Stop meddling in foreign affairs and learn to love our country.”

Flags across Whidbey Island flew at half-staff all week, and Friday was a federally-sanctioned national day of mourning, with all government offices closed for the day. There were no special services at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station nor at any public facility.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes

.com or call 675-6611

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