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Hundreds pay final respects to JROTC instructor ‘going home’

South Boston News
Army personnel remove the flag that draped the coffin of Army 1st Sgt. Gregory Scott before presenting it to his family gathered at HCHS. (Liza Fulton photo) / April 26, 2021

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Halifax County High School on Sunday for a going home celebration for Army veteran and HCHS JROTC instructor Gregory Scott, whose funeral took place on the same campus where he influenced the lives of his students, fellow faculty members and many others who crossed his path in life.

Scott, who died unexpectedly at home April 13 before school had begun that morning, got a hero’s farewell, with a 21-gun salute by American Legion Post 8 and a presentation of the American flag that draped his casket to his mother, Elnora Deloris Scott, by uniformed Army personnel from Fort Monroe and Fort Lee. An Army sergeant performed Taps, the final call for lights out and to rest.

The afternoon program began with members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club leading a funeral motorcade from Scott’s family home on Grace Street to the high school. After ushering family members to their vehicles, the motorcycle riders — three in front, one in back — escorted the procession of dozens of cars along College Street, onto North Main Street, then to HCHS.

Awaiting the family there were more than 300 people who came to share in the loss of a man praised by fellow educators and students as a towering figure at the high school — disciplined but empathetic. “Mr. Scott respected us as colleagues, he inspired us and encouraged us to be greater than we could ever imagine,” said Nevaeh Hodges, a senior at HCHS and member of the JROTC program. “He left us with tough decisions to make and taught us to be leaders for which we will be forever grateful.”

Michael Byrd of Mount Olive Baptist Church, where Scott was an active presence, said there were many things he wanted to say about his friend, who died at age 52, “but Greg wouldn’t want that, he’d want me to keep it short and make it sweet.

“Look at your neighbor, there are black people, white people, and speckled people. Greg had an impact on everyone around you,” said Byrd.

Scott’s motto that he imparted to students and uttered often in everyday life — “Too Easy” — stemmed from his belief that when life seems hard, it’s really too easy. Byrd said his late friend lived by that belief every day.

“The truth is just ‘too easy’ when God brings a Gregory Scott in your life — everybody has the potential to help someone. Greg would see your strengths and let you know you can do it. He had belief in others even if they did not believe in themselves,” said Byrd. “Greg would tell you, you have everything inside you to accomplish your plan.

“Greg had a principal that told him he’d never amount to anything and wasn’t worth anything. Greg made a plan for his life, not to prove anyone right or wrong. He made a plan for his life. We have to be persistent because it’s too easy. If one door closes, kick the other one in … We are going to miss Greg in this community, but have to thank God for sending him into our lives,” said Byrd.

Hubert Pannell, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and pastor of Hackberry Baptist Church in Sutherlin, was close friends with Scott. He recalled their last moment together, after work on Monday when Scott stopped by his office and said he was ready to go home. He died the next morning.

“Pop let’s go home, I’m ready to go home,” Pannell recalled Scott telling him at that time. “I misread that, thinking he meant it was the end of the day. There is a home we all want to go to. This is not our home,” said Pannell.

Added South Boston Mayor Ed Owens, another of the speakers for the program: “Greg was special person in more ways than one, he left fingerprints all over this community. Everybody he met fell in love with him. The Town of South Boston will really miss him. We need more people like Sgt. Scott, he is one of a kind.” His voice cracking. “On behalf of all the citizens we are thankful to have had him in our lives.”

Scott served in the U.S. Army for 28 years, including multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, before retiring from the military and returning home to South Boston. He joined the faculty at the high school from which he graduated to serve as lead instructor of the JROTC program for the past five years. JROTC cadets were numerous in the crowd at his funeral, and students presented Scott’s family with a plaque and memorial wreath.

“This cloudy afternoon reminds me of 10 months ago when Scott organized a community event for cadets who had died,” said retired Lt. Col. Giles Cutler, who joined the high school JROTC program 14 months ago. It was a reference to the Aug. 28, memorial service at HCHS that Scott organized for Kolby Singleton and Aiden Henderson, two JROTC members who lost their lives on the same day in separate accidents that month.

“The dark cloud and storm could have ruined the event. I was praying the storm would pass,” recalled Cutler. “On Monday, I shared my prayers with Mr. Scott for the storm to pass and he said he prayed, too. Mr. Scott said, ‘Did you see what God did? He moved that cloud.’ Mr. Scott was a man of prayer and truly a person who reached out to others.”

Shared HCHS Principal Michael Lewis, “He always put everyone else first. My favorite thing he’d say to me [in difficult times], he would point his finger at me and say, ‘That’s just too easy.’

“It’s not going to be easy to let go of Mr. Scott today,” said Lewis.

Sylvia Dailey, one of the musical performers at Sunday’s service, chose to sing one of her late friend’s favorite gospel spirituals, “I Won’t Complain.” “When I would return home, Greg would make it his business to make sure I got up to sing at church,” said Dailey with a smile.

Her performance of the song brought Scott’s mother to her feet, tears flowing.

Also performing was Marque Medley, who sang “Spirit Fall Down.”

“A true living giant legend has fallen. He epitomizes the character we should live,” said Pannell. “Scott was the man to feed you if you were hungry, take you home if you need a place to sleep, and give you clothes if you had none. A true soldier.”

Scott’s family was presented with several resolutions. One recognized his devotion and faithful dedication to his church, Mount Olive Baptist Church on North Main Street. Other recognitions came from the Town of South Boston, Sinai Elementary School, American Legion Post 99, and the Halifax County School Board.

Burial with military rites was held after the service at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

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