By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
When Trudy Cain settles on a project, she goes all in.
A lifelong Worthington resident, she and her twin sister Judy Turner have turned their attention to raising money and awareness for Wreaths Across America, an organization dedicated to putting memorial wreaths on the graves of U.S. military veterans.
“Judy’s husband passed away last year,” Cain said, “and he had planned to go and help with the Wreaths Across America ceremony in Pruntytown.”
Pete “Ace” Turner was an Army veteran and Jeep enthusiast who was very “gung ho” about his service, they said.
“He passed away in July (2012) so he couldn’t go,” Cain said, choking up, “but he was there (in the cemetery) when we went.
“We went to go help put out the wreaths because we thought it was going to be big,” she said. “Because Pete talked about it like it was going to be huge.”
At the major national cemeteries like Arlington, it is. At Pruntytown, however, there were only 43 wreaths for more than 4,000 soldiers.
They knew what they had to do.
Cain and Turner grew up in Worthington, down the road from where Cain now lives. Their father was an Army veteran as well, so the military has always been an important part of their lives.
As identical twins, the two girls had a lot of fun when they were younger.
“We used to be able to switch on teachers in school,” Cain said. “Not so much anymore.”
The secret, she said, was not talking with the teacher or making too much eye contact.
“Our voices are a little bit different,” she said, “and you can tell if you see us together, but if you see one, you can’t really tell.”
They even managed to switch on their boyfriends once.
“We went to Kennywood one year and we had on jackets because it was raining, so we just switched jackets and switched guys,” Cain said. “It was an hour or two. We walked around holding the other guy’s hand, and they didn’t even know!”
The two are also avid photographers.
“Photography is a huge part of my life,” Cain said. “I’m always taking pictures of my nieces, Judy’s dog, my crazy cat, my kid — that’s a big thing. When we get out, I’m always sporting one camera or three.”
When her son Dylan was a student at Monongah Elementary, Cain was the president of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) and raised money for a new playground at the school.
“Once I get going, it’s hard to stop me,” she said. “It’s all or nothing. If you’re not committed to it, you can’t convince other people to be committed to it as well.”
She and her sister are committed to raising funds and awareness for their new project. The goal is to raise enough money to put a wreath on every grave in Section 5 of the West Virginia National Cemetery, where Turner’s husband is buried.
At $10 a wreath for their fundraising, that’s $10,000, but Cain is optimistic. She said it’s for a great cause.
“The whole project of Wreaths Across America is to teach our kids that it’s OK to carry a flag and not be ashamed of our country and not step back, to get out there and know that those guys are there for a reason, and respect them. Just because it may not be their grandfather or their dad, it’s somebody’s, and they deserve the respect.”
A “Jeep run” in July raised more than $1,800, and Cain has plans for other events before December, when they’ll go to place the wreaths.
The community has responded well to the sisters’ work.
“I’m not afraid to ask anybody for anything because it’s a good cause,” she said.
“I get random checks in the mail from people for $10,” Turner said. “One I just got in the mail last week was from this lady whose husband or someone is there, and she can’t get there anymore.”
Worthington seems to have a special connection with veterans. Just outside Cain’s house is a memorial for local veterans maintained by Tracy Smith, a former mayor who continues to give back to his community.
“Growing up here, you always saw flags on Flag Day and the Fourth of July,” Cain said.
As people get older, the town has seen less of that, but she said she tries to keep the patriotic spirit alive however she can.
“That’s part of awareness. People just kinda go, ‘Oh, it’s just a day off of work,’” she said. “Not me! I’m hanging out my POW/MIA flag, my inflatable Uncle Sam — my yard is ... always patriotic.”
For more information about the Ace Memorial Fund, call 304-657-6598.
Email Jonathan Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.