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Not just Pete's wife, Lorraine Adkins fills numerous roles

Not just Pete's wife, Lorraine Adkins fills numerous roles

Wreaths for Heroes is her latest hallmark

June 6th, 2011 in News

Pete and Lorraine Adkins are shown May 26 after a memorial service at Hawthorn Memorial Gardens in Jefferson City.

She does not mind being called, answering to or being best known as Mrs. Pete Adkins, wife of the famed Jays Football Coach. But the truth is, Lorraine Adkins is an amazing woman in her own right, with many accomplishments to be proud of.

She is a mother, retired realtor, wife, volunteer and leader. Adkins spent 30 years selling real estate in Jefferson City area.

"I loved my job," she said sitting in the living room at the home she and Pete built in 1971. "I was excited to wake up and go to work each day. I made great friends and had great fun."

The Chicago native said she spent years walking through the streets of Jefferson City known as "Mrs. Pete Adkins."

"No one really knew who I was, if they did they would call me Mrs. Pete Adkins," she said. "It was not until I had been selling real estate for awhile that people knew me," she recalled.

"The first time I felt I had made it was when we were in Walmart and I wrote a check, with Pete standing right beside me. I asked the girl if she needed my license, and she said she knew who I was. I knew then I had made it."

Pete and Lorraine met as children. His mother and hers lived next to each other in Wellsville, and through family connections saw each other through much of their youth.

She was 13 and he was a senior in high school when he asked her to a drive-in movie. She accepted, and that, she said, is how it started.

He joined the Navy in the midst of World War II, they became pen pals while she finished school and he served his country.

"My mom told me to wait to get married until I was 20, so we got married the day after," she said.

Making the most of their time in Canton, Centrailia and then making their home in Jefferson City, Lorraine's knack has always been for finding part-time work and being a supportive wife.

It was Christmas 2009 when Lorraine was moved to attend the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the National Cemetery on East McCarty Street after reading about the program in a magazine.

"I was expecting to see a wreath on each grave, like the picture I had seen of Arlington," she said. "There were six wreaths - one for each branch of service and one for the POW/MIA. I counted there were 10 people there."

Once in the car, Lorraine said she told her husband that something had to be done to honor the soldiers buried there.

"He told me that we were too old to take on something like that - he said it was a big job," Lorraine said. She put the idea in the back of her mind, but brought it up again over Christmas. She and others also agreed that it was a massive undertaking.

"The more people told me I could not do it, the more I wanted to do it," she said.

In February, she told some local friends of her ideas, and they also told her she would not be able to raise the money in time for Christmas 2010.

After hearing from many that placing wreaths on each of the 1,587 graves a great idea, but could not be pulled off in 2010, Adkins set out on her mission.

"I planned a meeting for April to get things really going, but I knew I could not walk into the meeting with nothing so I started talking to banks and Eastside business people and the betterment committee and we were off," she said.

By the April meeting, she had secured $6,000 and had a vendor assisting on the wreaths and bows. She was well on her way.

Not only did the Wreaths for Heroes program place an artificial wreath on each of the 1,587 graves, there were so many volunteers it took less than 30 minutes to lay the wreaths. In fact, it went so fast that Adkins was not able to lay a wreath herself.

"I was holding a wreath in my hand and had stopped to talk to someone and out of the corner of my eye I saw one section done, then I turned and saw the whole cemetery had wreaths laid, and there were still volunteers coming."

The event was not just memorable for Adkins, but a history lesson for area youth, she said.

"In my entire time here I have never heard of a project that united each school in the area. Each school took part and took ownership in helping us," she said. "What a great history lesson for the children. Now there should not be a child who does not know we have a National Cemetery here in town."

Adkins said the community made Wreaths for Heroes its project through its vast support from beginning to end.

"I did not do this, Jefferson City did this," she said.

Adkins said Wreaths for Heroes will once again place the wreaths this December, and for years to come. Currently the program is building the maintenance fund to ensure its longevity.

"I never wanted to retire and be committed to having to work or having to volunteer somewhere. I have stayed busy and enjoyed every minute of my life," she said. "Pete and I are just busy people, and we both like it that way." 

To get involved

Wreaths for Heroes, P.O. Box 105882, Jefferson City, Mo, 65110