The late Ray Powell sits during the Veterans Day program on Aug. 31, 2017, at the Shenandoah County Fair. Powell, who conceived and planned the Veterans Day program at the fair, passed away this year.

WOODSTOCK – For the past decade, the Veterans Tribute has become a major part of the Shenandoah County Fair, when the service and sacrifice of all veterans are recognized.

This year, the event will be without one of its key planners, retired Lt. Col Raymond F. “Ray” Powell. Powell, who passed away in June, will be honored at the Veterans Tribute, which will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Steve Jennings, who has been involved with the Veterans Tribute since the beginning, took charge of the event after Powell’s death.

“What he did [for veterans] was genuine,” Jennings said.

After Powell’s death, the organizers of the Veterans Tribute rallied to take over many of Powell’s responsibilities and planning for this year’s fair.

“I wanted to continue what he started,” Jennings said. “He has already laid the foundation. I’m not dumb enough to reinvent the wheel. I don’t think it needs reinventing.”

Jon Clark, a member of Chapter 936 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said that Powell handled the fundraising portion of the event before transitioning into organizing the entire event.

“He just took over the whole thing,” Clark said.

Ronnie Zerkel, the president of Chapter 936, said Powell was dedicated to the veterans, including trying to get veterans out of nursing homes for the tribute.

“Ray had his way,” he said. “It was a loving way. He would say [to the nursing homes] these people need to get out of here and be honored. He was a true veteran.”

Powell relied on the Vietnam Veterans of America, along with other organizations like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, to gather donations and help with the event when needed.

“When he wanted something, he looked you straight in the eye and said, ‘this is what I want, this is what I need, and this is what I’m going to get,’” Zerkel said. “We all respected him, so we did what he wanted to make the program work.”

Zerkel recalled seeing Powell before he died. Powell was working on the tribute until the very end.

“[Powell] was such a “detailed” man,” Zerkel said. “He knew where everything was.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Freakley will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s Veteran’s Tribute. Scott Powell, a former Army captain and Ray Powell’s son, will be the featured speaker.

Veterans service organizations will be on hand to provide veteran assistance. Admission to the fair will be free to all veterans all day. Admission for veterans’ family members will be free before 10 a.m. Golf carts will be available to transport veterans from the parking lot to the stands.

– Contact Donald Lambert at dlambert@nvdaily.com