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Mourners bid farewell to Seaman Wibberley

October 21, 2000

Mourners bid farewell to Seaman Wibberley



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY And ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writers


USS Cole Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley was laid to rest Saturday with a sermon of hope and many tearful farewells at his grave.

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Wibberley's parents, Thomas and Patricia Wibberley, his sister, Toni, and nearly 700 other mourners surrounded the Williamsport native's flag-draped casket at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown for his funeral service.

Later, a few hundred watched solemnly as he was buried at St. Mark's Episcopal Church Cemetery at Lappans Crossroads.

Wibberley, 19, was killed in the Oct. 12 bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen.

"The blast was a blast of hatred, but God has turned it for us into a wave of love," said the Rev. Anne O. Weatherholt, who served as celebrant at the funeral service.

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Weatherholt said the Holy Spirit drew the many mourners together for Wibberley's funeral services to commend the sailor into the hands of God, comfort his family and "recall the Resurrection."

"What we perceive in the world is not the final truth," she said. "Death is not the last world because Christ is alive and has gone beyond the grave to a new life which Craig now shares."

Weatherholt offered Holy Communion in the sanctuary to the Wibberley family. Many other mourners took Communion from ministers stationed in various parts of the church.

"Craig will live on in the lives of every one of us," said Arnold Hammann, principal of Washington County Technical High School. "I will always remember Craig's smiles and expressions as he experienced success."

Wibberley, who graduated from the technical school in 1999, had a thirst for knowledge and embodied "the ultimate over-achiever," Hammann said.

"Craig was never going nowhere. He was always going somewhere," Hammann read from a letter written by Norman McGaughey, Wibberley's advanced computer applications teacher and bass-fishing mentor.

"Craig would've been successful in whatever he wanted to do," McGaughey wrote.

He was loved by many, said one young friend who asked to remain unnamed.

"His smile is still around," sang musician and Wibberley family friend Jason Teach in "Cold October," a song he wrote after his father's death and modified for his friend's funeral.

"You took a whole lot with you when they took your life. And I'm still remembering all of those cold Octobers and that bloody sky that withers our souls," Teach sang.

Wibberley knew the USS Cole was entering dangerous waters, Weatherholt said, and just prior to his death asked her to e-mail him some Biblical verses to "keep him sane."

He chose not to take the easy path through life, but "a path towards finding out who God wanted him to be," Weatherholt said.

On his "journey of discovery, journey of faith," Wibberley placed himself "in harm's way for a greater good," she said.

"The greatest thing any young person could do is what Craig was doing."

To honor Wibberley's sacrifice, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Warner Sumter, state Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Washington County Commissioners President Gregory Snook presented the Wibberley family with commendations and the Maryland flag that flew over the State House in Annapolis on Friday.

A number of state and local government officials and representatives from each branch of the military attended the hour-and-a-half funeral service.

As the dignitaries spoke, about 100 of Webberley's Williamsport High School classmates were clustered together, solemn-faced, in pews near the front of the church.

"This is a family event," said Rear Admiral Darold Bigger, who represented the U.S Naval Reserve's chaplain corps. "It's an honor for us to be here."

Following the funeral service at St. John's, Bigger presented the Wibberley family with a folded U.S. flag during a graveside service at St. Mark's Episcopal Church Cemetery.

Six honor guard members carried Wibberley's casket from the hearse to his grave. Seven others fired a 21-gun salute.

As a lone bugler played "Taps," many in the crowd sobbed.

Following a prayer by Weatherholt, Thomas, Patricia and Toni Wibberley sprinkled sand on the coffin, symbolizing the earth, dust and ashes to which the young sailor's body was returning.

People who never knew Wibberley stood along Md. 65 and Md. 68 Saturday to watch his casket go by.

Kim Marshall, 32, of Sharpsburg, played a board game with her son, Philip, 9, and Paige, 5, in the bed of her Silverado pick-up truck as they awaited the procession.

She said Wibberley was buried close to her grandfather, Warren Davis, a World War II veteran who died in April. "If you're a person of faith, you don't think it's ironic," she said. "The old war hero welcomes the young."

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