TOCCOA - He’s home.
Nearly 70 years after Cpl. Terrell J. Fuller went missing in Korea, his remains are back in his hometown. An honor guard escorted the hearse from the airport, up Interstates 85 and 985 and then down the smaller roads into this picturesque spot in North Georgia.
Folks were busy preparing before the sun came up. Cub Scout Martin Raybon, 10, helped his mom Joann Raybon set up flags along the town’s main boulevard.
“He was in the Korea War and he got captured,” explained Martin, a rising fifth grader.
Brandi Carter and Cassie Southers arrived early with their toddlers Chaylei, 3, and Cooper, 1, to secure a spot along the procession route. Carter’s’ late grandfather served in Korea, and she carried his memory in her heart on Thursday morning.
“He was so proud of serving in that war,” she said.
The family will receive visitors from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Acree-Davis Funeral Home. The burial, on Saturday, will be private.
Fuller was about 20 when he joined the U.S. Army. He was 23 by the time the military presumed him dead. We don’t know much about him. Family spokesman Amy Hix, his great-niece, said there are no living relatives in town who knew him. Newspaper articles from the time give only basic details.
“Terrell J. Fuller Listed Among Korea Casualties,” reads a Tocca Record headline from 1951. The post lists him and others considered missing in action at the time. Two years later, Fuller made the front page. “U.S. Says Reds Holding Toccoan.”
“Pfc. Terrell J. Fuller, son of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Fuller, Rt. 3, Toccoa, is one of 11 Georgians listed by the United States as still held a prisoner of war by the Communists in Korea. The parents, residents of the Toccoa Falls Community, have been informed by the Defense Department.”
A search for Fuller’s possible high school yearbook didn’t go anywhere. The library here stocks vintage copies that have been donated, and its collection only dates back to 1955. Sharon Crenshaw, manager of the town’s welcome center, which houses the Stephens County Historical Museum, was eager to help and made phone calls to folks she thought might have a copy. No dice.
Still, she was heartened by the crowds that showed up to pay respects on Thursday morning.
“I’m proud of our little town,” she said.
Students from Toccoa Elementary school assembled on the grounds of the Stephens County Courthouse to welcome the procession. VIP seating was afforded to veterans of the Korean War and other conflicts.
“It was cold,” Roger Dulaney recalled of his time on the peninsula. “In the summertime, it rained.”
He and fellow Korea veterans O.L. Agnew and Bob Codar said Fuller’s homecoming felt somber.
“He’ll be buried on his birthday,” Dulaney noted. Fuller would have been 88 on Saturday.
Ralph Tolliver was a paratrooper in Korea.
“It’s a sad situation, but it means a lot to us to see all the support,” he said. “This is a big crowd.”
Sharon Crosby, special events coordinator for the city of Toccoa, zipped around in a golf cart Thursday morning, keeping an eye on logistics and ferrying veterans to the viewing stands. At every stop, she said, folks thanked the old soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for their service.
“People say the Korean War was the forgotten war,” she said.
In Toccoa, they remember.