LaFountaines to be honored at Meeksville July 4 celebration

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Diane and Hank LaFountaine were staples at the China Grove Fourth of July Parade. There will be a memorial service at this year’s parade in Meeksville to honor the couple.

Diane and Hank LaFountaine were staples at the China Grove Fourth of July Parade. There will be a memorial service at this year’s parade in Meeksville to honor the couple.

The Fourth of July Parade at Meeksville will be bittersweet this year. The death of Diane LaFountaine will make it so for the many who knew her and appreciated her dedication to the patriotic parade and her love of community and country.

Following the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, the sponsoring Meeksville Volunteer Fire Department will hold a short ceremony dedicated to the memory of Diane LaFountaine and her husband, Hank, at Harmony/Meeksville Park.

The ceremony will begin around 11:30 a.m. and everyone is invited to share this time of remembrance.

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The LaFountaines’ involvement with the Fourth of July parades began 14 years ago in the sleepy, blink-and-miss-it community of China Grove.

That neighborhood parade was Rita Dean’s idea. She, her husband, Jimmy, and their children lived in the house that had been in his family since the Civil War. The Deans had a strong sense of community and country that was shared by their neighbors and friends, Hank and Diane LaFountaine.

The children rode their bicycles through the downtown area in celebration of the Fourth of July and to the appreciative applause of their mamas and daddies.

The parade of less that 50 participants and spectators struck a patriotic cord in the China Grove community and became an annual event. In a few short years, the parade was attracting thousands to China Grove on the Fourth of July.

Over years, the LaFountaines volunteered their services to the Fourth of July Parade and all the activities and festivities of the day. Hank did a lot of the “go-fer” work and Diane took charge of much of the publicity for the event.

And, on parade day, the LaFountaines made their property available for parking, their lawn for parade watching and picnicking and their home as a cooling off place from the hot, sultry summer day. And, the lemonade was always free.

Hank LaFountaine died in May 2011 and the China Grove Parade was dedicated to him that year. Diane continued to be one of the parade’s biggest promoters and supporters because Hank loved it so much, she previously said.

But the parade had become too big and too much for the residents of the small China Grove community to handle. The Meeksville VFD had been involved with the parade for about 10 years and agreed to take it over in 2012.

“We cooked barbecue and fed people at the China Grove parade for all those years but we didn’t know anything much about the parade part,” said Alfred Alloway, former chief of the Meeksville VFD. “Diane stepped right in and told us what to do and how to do and then she helped us do it. She contacted the right people and got the publicity going and we had a very successful first Fourth of July Parade at Meeksville.”

Mona Jackson, a volunteer with the fire department, said the success of that parade belonged, in a large part, to LaFountaine.

“Diane helped us get our feet wet,” Jackson said. “She showed us the ropes. Without her help, I don’t think that we could have done it.”

However, old habits die-hard and, even though LaFountaine dedicated her efforts to the Meeksville Fourth of July Parade she was determined that the China Grove Fourth of July Parade would continue.

LaFountaine organized a small parade that stepped off the morning of the Fourth of July 2012 in downtown China Grove with Ben Andress leading the way with Old Glory. The parade made its way through China Grove and up the roadway to join the Fourth of July Parade at Meeksville.

For Meeksville, that was the beginning of a Fourth of July Parade tradition. Diane LaFountaine was a part of that new beginning and will continue to be in the hearts and memories of those who knew her, Jackson said.