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Oklahoma Town Conducts Memorial for Victims : Post Office Gunman Buried Near Parents

August 25, 1986|Associated Press

EDMOND, Okla. — Patrick Henry Sherrill, who killed 14 Postal Service co-workers and wounded six others before committing suicide, was buried Sunday, several hours before an emotional memorial service was held for the victims.

Sherrill, 44, was cremated and his ashes buried at the grave site of his parents in Watonga, Okla., in a brief, private service attended by 25 friends and relatives.

Sherrill, who had worked at the post office in Edmond, about 100 miles away, for about 1 1/2 years, entered the building early Wednesday and began shooting.

Sunday was declared an official day of mourning by Gov. George Nigh, who joined Postmaster General Robert Preston Tisch and Mayor Carl Reherman at the Central State University football stadium for the 50-minute memorial service.

'Town's Healing' Begins

The Rev. Dale Carter, a Methodist minister, said the memorial would begin "our town's healing."

About 3,500 people, including relatives of the victims, attended the service. Dozens of floral arrangements were placed on a grassy slope on one side of the football field, and a postal jeep was parked on the track.

Michael Bigler, who was wounded in the shooting but survived by feigning death, sobbed as he read a biblical passage calling for men to love one another.

"I've cried for those I miss and for those I love," Bigler said. "I love you. God loves you."

Tisch said: "The families of Edmond, Oklahoma, mourn on this day. The family that is the Postal Service mourns also. . . . At 40,000 post offices across the United States, the flag flies at half-staff. At 40,000 post offices, men and women weep."

Moment of Silence

Tisch announced that at 4 p.m. today a moment of silence will be observed at all post offices. Then, flags that have been flying at half-staff since Wednesday will be raised, he said.

Sherrill's small urn was draped with flowers. Included was a bouquet from letter carriers in Irving, Tex., with a card that read: "To those who understand what he went through as a carrier. No one will ever know how far he was pushed to do what he did."

The reference was to reports that supervisors had threatened Sherrill with dismissal if his work did not improve. Postal Service officials have denied that supervisors threatened to fire Sherrill.

Police have speculated that Sherrill was angry over a reprimand, which came the day before he entered the post office carrying a pistol in one hand and two others and ammunition in his mail bag.

Relatives at Service

Kenneth Russworm, owner of the Russworm Funeral Home, which handled Sherrill's service, said relatives at the service included a sister, Jo Ann Buswell of Edmond, a niece and two nephews, one of whom read a brief eulogy. At the family's request, reporters were kept too far away to hear what was said. Buswell has refused to talk with reporters about her brother.

The graveside service lasted about two minutes. Relatives and friends stayed for about five minutes, exchanging handshakes and hugs.

Eight victims of the shooting were buried Saturday. Six burials took place in Oklahoma. One was held in St. John, Kan., and another in Marietta, Ga. Four others were interred Friday.

Services for Patricia Gabbard, 47, were held Sunday in Crescent. Betty Jarred, 34, was to be buried today in Guthrie.

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