Perhaps you saw in this newspaper the recent photo of Mr. Bert Hurn presenting a plaque to Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson and Neosho City Manager Troy Royer.

Mr. Hurn belongs to the Neosho High School Class of ‘42. The remaining members of the class had commissioned two plaques engraved with a poem Mr. Hurn wrote titled, “The Best Bequest.” The poem is dedicated to what has been called “the greatest generation,” which is my grandparents’ generation – those people who first survived the Great Depression and then literally saved the world from the dark intentions of mad men and despots in what we know as World War II. Mr. Hurn belongs to that generation as well, though he is quick to point out that in his poem he pluralizes it to “those generations.” That’s because the poem is also meant to pay tribute to the men and women of the Space Age, which Neosho so very much played a part in with the Rocketdyne plant. Hopefully, you know that story. If not, well, maybe another time.

As mentioned, two plaques were commissioned by the surviving alumni of the Class of ‘42. One was to be presented to the Neosho School District, the other to the Newton County Commission. Mr. Hurn himself paid for a nice large color photograph of the plaque, as well as a suitable frame and was going to present that to the City of Neosho, as a thoughtful gesture.

Imagine the surprise when he walked into city hall, not with a framed photograph, but with the actual plaque itself! Mr. Hurn paid out of his own pocket to have a third plaque made.

Before he was a U.S. District Attorney and Newton County Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Hurn was the Neosho City Judge and the Neosho City Attorney. The city had been good to him, he modestly explained, and he wanted to do something in return.

On each corner of the plaque there is an image burned on tile. On the top left is the famous photo of the United States flag being raised on Iwo Jima. On the bottom left is an early photo of the beautiful Neosho Auditorium, once city hall. On the upper right is a space capsule headed toward the moon. On the lower right is the United Nations building. The last two photos may not have been possible without the caliber of people who made the first two possible. They paved the way and gave succeeding generations a better world to make of it what they would. To me, that’s what Mr. Hurn’s poem, “The Best Bequest,” is about.

I am proud to say that the engraved poem is now hanging near the front door of Neosho City Hall. And I am also proud to share it here.

Thank you, Mr. Hurn.

“The Best Bequest”

By Bert C. Hurn

Here’s to those generations:
All those of World War Two,
Who sought the best,
Who did not rest,
And to that quest were true.

Who rose from the depression,
And – battle flags unfurled –
Our foes o’erthrew,
And built our new
And better, brighter world.

Who brought the whole world closer
To that day when it can
Hear freedom ring
And time can bring
The parliament of man.

Who split and tamed the atom,
Who put man on the moon,
Who won the race
In outer space,
While whistling happy tunes.

Who taught us with their courage:
Things man can’t do are few.
Man may traverse
This universe!
No less a quest will do.

Who thus called out the challenge,
Full-measured and sublime:
“Seek you, with zest,
The very best,
Throughout all life and time.”

This awesome admonition,
This best bequest of all,
This torch is there,
For all who care,
For all who heed the call:

To give life their finest;
To keep the torch held high;
To pass life’s test
And join that best
Reunion in the sky!

The clarion call we’ve heeded:
The torch we shall hold high,
Through joy and tears,
Through all the years,
And join them in the sky,

And never say goodbye –
And never say goodbye –
And never say goodbye –

Wes Franklin serves on the board of directors of the Newton County Historical Society. He is also public relations/events coordinator for the City of Neosho. Call him at 658-8443.