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Pooch Pace honored as WLOS Person of the Year

Rufus "Pooch" Pace accepts award as the WLOS-TV Person of the Year. Rufus "Pooch" Pace accepts award as the WLOS-TV Person of the Year.

For 70 years, Rufus “Pooch” Pace, his tenor bark piercing the air in sunshine or in rain, in sweltering heat or bitter cold, was a part of Henderson County’s celebrations of America, opening day of the Apple Festival and the honoring of veterans, collectively or one by one.

A veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Pace, 92, announced last year that he was hanging up his uniform and M-1 rifle and retiring. After the community honored Pace during the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Forest Lawn, WLOS named him its Person of the Week. That put him in the running for Person of the Year. He was identified last week as one of the finalists, and on Monday morning at American Legion Post 77 downtown WLOS reporter John Le presented Pace with the Person of the Year award.
Pace said he always gave thanks for being raised by loving parents in a Christian home, for being born and raised in the mountains and for the honor of serving his country in the Army.
“When the city council calls, county commissioners call, he mobilizes,” Shuford Edmisten, a past Honor Guard member, said before Pace’s award. “You’re standing out in the elements and that pole is cold. You better have some gloves. It can be very testing. But I don’t think Pooch has ever missed one. We had a lot of these guys who were also on the team, World War II and Korean War veterans, that have passed away. But we also have a lot of new people. We never have enough but we do have a good positive group.”
Pace recalled the modest origins of the county Honor Guard.
“When I started there was just two of us,” he said. “All we could do was fold the flag and make a presentation. Later, we got the rifle detail and a bugle and all that. We didn’t know anybody that knew how to play the bugle so we got somebody from the high school band.” When they couldn’t recruit a bugler, they pushed a button on a boombox and played a cassette tape of “Taps.”
Up till now, when an old soldier died, Pace would get a call to muster the Honor Guard for graveside military rites.
“One time we were out at Shepherd Park and it was sleeting and I thought it was gonna beat my ears off,” he said. “But after that I got earmuffs.”
Now he can spend time at home with Jean, his wife of 65 years. Jean was there to celebrate Pace’s honor, along with their sons Dewey and Gary, daughter Donna and granddaughter, Shelbi. More than a dozen members of the current Honor Guard also attended the presentation.

At 92, Pace is in good health. His seven decades of service on the Honor Guard has got to be a record of some kind and with his retirement, one element of the guard passes into history. Pooch Pace is the last World War II veteran to serve on the flag detail. With his self-imposed sidelining, he will now sit or stand along with others and watch as other volunteers take up the flags and carry out the command that Pooch singularly would shout: “Forward, march! Colors, halt! Right, face! Present, colors!”