SPRUCE PINE – The memory of the late Seth McKinney will forever live on in Mitchell County.
McKinney, a Mitchell County boy who died at age 15 in October 2018, will have his own memorial plaque near the permanent flagpole set to be erected at Parkway Fire and Rescue in Grassy Creek.
Chad Hughes of Parkway Fire and Rescue said the department had been hoping to install a new permanent flagpole to keep from having to use the ladders on their trucks to display large American flags during events.
The idea to add the McKinney memorial came after McKinney’s mother, Heather Potter Rickman, approached the department about naming the flagpole after him and adding some kind of memorial.
Hughes said no one at Parkway Fire and Rescue thought twice about the request. He was part of an informal committee that helped make the project a reality.
“It’s wonderful to be able to do this,” Hughes said. “It’s truly our honor.”
Seth Buchanan, of Sibelco, and Bryon Burleson also made significant contributions to the project. Sibelco was one of the first donors for the project, Hughes said.
Aside from his connection to the project through Parkway Fire and Rescue, Hughes has another intimate connection to the family – he is the public address voice of the Mountaineers football team for which Seth’s older brother, Tyler, is a standout senior wide receiver. Their oldest brother, Alex, previously served as a coach for the team.
Hughes said the McKinney boys are well-known in the community, meaning the memorial will have a special meaning for Mitchell County. Seth was well-known as a patriot and a proud American, making a memorial next to a large United States flag a logical decision.
“It’s just a great asset to the community to even have a permanent flagpole there to begin with,” Hughes said. “It’s definitely special to have it dedicated to him.”
Rickman said she and her family are thankful to the fire department for allowing the memorial to become a reality.
The large flagpole segments were fashioned into one piece earlier this month. Hughes said Parkway Fire and Rescue hopes to have the pole placed, the large flag up and the memorial plaque in place sometime within the next few weeks.
A special dedication ceremony for the flagpole and plaque will be held at a date to be announced.
Rickman has drafted a script of what she wants the plaque to say. The writing comes from Seth’s personal notebook: “Live every day as though it is your last and as though you’ll live forever. Life on Earth is not forever. Don’t stay idle for a single day. If your questions have no answers, perhaps you are asking the wrong questions.”
Now, thanks to the plaque and flag in Grassy Creek, there will never be questions about remembering Seth.
“One of the hardest things about death is the stillness,” Rickman said. “We love the idea that we would see something that reminded us of Seth that moves and that looks like life instead of death. Seth loved this country very deeply, so being able to honor him by having a part in this seems so perfect.”
A ceremony to officially dedicate the flagpole will take place sometime in the spring.