By Sarah Whitman
The Lutz Patriots will honor a lost friend with a tree planting ceremony June 19.
Robert Henry Elrod, father of Lutz Patriots co-founders Barbara Mueller and Karen Williams, passed away April 7. The Navy veteran of WW II was laid to rest with military honors April 19 at Bushnell National Cemetery, following a funeral service at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. He was 87 and died from complications after a fall where he broke his neck.
Friends and family will gather to plant a crape myrtle June 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the Old Lutz School. The public is invited to attend and remember a true hero.
“He was a good and humble man,” said longtime friend and Lutz Patriot Bruce Hockensmith. “He loved God and his country. He was at the Old Lutz School almost every Friday waving the flag.”
According to friends and family, Elrod loved his country and was a proud member of the Lutz Patriots, always eager to share stories with fellow veterans. He was a first cousin to Henry T. “Hammerin’ Hank” Elrod, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on and above Wake Island during WW II as a U.S. Marine aviator.
“He was very proud of that,” Hockensmith said.
Elrods daughters, Mueller and Williams, founded the Lutz Patriots in 2003 to encourage a pride for country within the community. Inspired by their father, the women send letters and care packages overseas on a regular basis. They organize community events and offer support to military families. Mueller, whose son also served in the marines, said her father set an example to be proud of and she is excited to honor him with the tree planting.
“When some of the Lutz Patriots came to us and said they wanted to honor our dad this way, we were surprised and happy,” Mueller said. “It is a very sweet thing.”
Muller is coincidentally hosting a family reunion the same day as the tree planting, so many of her relatives will be there.
“I have cousins coming I haven’t seen in years,” Mueller said. “I told them they get to attend a very special event. Our dad would be overwhelmed. He’d probably say something like, ‘Why are you doing all this for me?’ ”
Hockensmith and other Lutz Patriots in attendance will also present Elrod’s family with a plaque in honor of his life and service to America. They will share stories of what he meant to the community. More than 50 people are expected to attend.
“Our father truly would be humbled,” Mueller said. “There are a lot of great patriots in the community and a lot of people could be honored. To honor our dad, is really special. He was a great dad and a great man.”