Keeping it together for a Wise Fourth

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is Bruce Perkinson’s home phone ring tone all year round.

In his home, it is a constant reminder of his efforts for the annual Fourth of July parade and festival in the Warren County community of Wise.

As the fire chief of Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department, Perkinson has coordinated the event for the past 12 years. The 2013 edition lines up for the parade on U.S. 1 at 9 a.m. Thursday and steps off at 10 a.m., with World War II veteran John Ernest Moody serving as grand marshal.

Perkinson was born and raised in Wise, his childhood home just yards away from the Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department. Unable to enlist for Vietnam with his friends and brother in 1968, Perkinson became a local volunteer firefighter the following year.

“He has always felt a deep connection to the service of the department,” said his wife of 43 years, Delaine.

Fourteen years later, he became the fire chief and has served in that position for 30 years.

In 2000, the Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department decided to host the parade in honor of the community’s war veterans.

“They really gave a lot for us so that we didn’t have to through it,” Bruce said.

Delaine said although the first parade was small it was exhilarating.

After Sept. 11, the fire department decided to intensify their focus on the service of veterans in 2002, which has continued until today.

“For the last five years we have tried to put more emphasis on trying to have local persons as grand marshals,” Perkinson said. “It just follows in line with that homegrown soldier.”

One local veteran and three local active servicemen have served as grand marshals. Moody is a 91-year-old who served as an infantryman and moved to Warren County 61 years ago.

Each year Perkinson has ensured there is a special float in the parade to honor veterans.

“Independence Day is based on what they did in service to their country whether overseas or all of their duties done at home,” he said.

Because Wise does not have any looping side roads, Perkinson explained the parade travels directly down U.S. 1 to the field behind Wise Baptist Church, where they have a festival right under the large shady oak trees.

In order to close the highway, the fire department has to gain permission from the district engineer of the N.C. Department of Transportation. Once permission is granted, the district engineer informs the N.C. Highway Patrol so a temporary detour can be provided.

“The fire chief, the one who didn’t have to serve in the military, has found a niche in organizing the parade,” Delaine said.

Dr. Marion Lark, interim pastor of Wise Baptist Church, indicated that while Perkinson is not the only man involved with parade planning, he is the primary motivator in getting things done.

William Lynch, a Hawtree firefighter, agreed.

“If it wasn’t for Bruce we probably wouldn’t have had a parade,” Lynch said.

Lark referred to Perkinson as a solid citizen who flies the flag with honor and integrity, saying, “He is one like I wish we had many, many more.”

Contact the writer at aouthouse@hendersondispatch.com.