Bootheel mourns soldier killed in Iraq

Saturday, December 23, 2006

PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. -- In the small Southeast Missouri town of Portageville, Maj. Gloria Davis is remembered as a hero.

An 18-year Army veteran, the 47-year-old Davis died Dec. 12 from a gunshot wound while stationed in Iraq, friends and family said.

A military funeral was held Friday in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

But for many Portageville residents that's not enough.

DeLisle Funeral Home in Portageville is planning a memorial service Dec. 30. The town is buying flags to hand out to bystanders along the route from the funeral home to the city cemetery. where the memorial service will conclude.

The Department of Defense said Davis' death was from a "noncombat" incident and that her death is under investigation.

Family friend Jan Saxton, who works as a clerk in the local post office, said she and others in the town of 3,500 people view Davis as a hero who died in military service to her country.

"Everybody is saying how good it was that she was fighting for her country," said Saxton, who is a close friend of Portageville resident Annie Washington, Davis' mother.

Davis was assigned to the Defense Security Assistance Agency in Washington, D.C., the Defense Department said. She was deployed to Iraq in September and had been stationed in Baghdad.

Saxton described Davis as a woman who had a strong religious faith. Davis moved away from Portageville years ago. She resided in St. Louis.

George DeLisle, owner of DeLisle Funeral Home, remembers Davis from high school. Davis graduated from Portageville High School in 1977. DeLisle graduated in 1978.

"She was a good girl," DeLisle said.

"Her family is well-known. That is why Portageville wants to do something for her," he said.

Portageville is home not only to Davis' mother, but also her brother, Michael Scott.

"I have had calls all day from people trying to help," DeLisle said.

DeLisle said Davis recently made a Christmas donation to the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Marston, Mo., where her mother worships.

DeLisle is still working on plans for the 11 a.m. memorial service at his funeral home. He expects a large turnout including family and church members, and representatives from Bootheel police and fire departments, the Missouri National Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Police chief Ronnie Adams plans to hand out small American flags to those who want to line the funeral route, starting at 10 a.m. at Portageville High School, DeLisle said. The school is about 12 blocks from the funeral home.

DeLisle hopes the route from the funeral home to the city cemetery will be crowded with people.

The memorial service will conclude at the cemetery.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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