CHESTERTOWN — How do you honor a man who flew 52 combat missions over the European Theatre during World War II and came home safely to serve his community as a husband and a father, a faithful parishioner at the local Methodist church, one of the finest tractor mechanics on the Eastern Shore and a longtime Mason?
Small towns love their parades, and that’s kind of what took place here Saturday at noon when family and friends and admirers saluted Harold Joiner for his extraordinary journey of service and commitment.
There was cake, too, as Joiner had celebrated his 100th birthday earlier in the week.
“There was a lot to that, wasn’t there,” Joiner said to his son Greg at the conclusion of Saturday’s festivities.
Masons from across the state came to honor Joiner for his 75 years of meritorious service to Chester Lodge #115, by proxy two Governor’s Citations were presented and Mayor Chris Cerino proclaimed Nov. 14, 2020 as Harold Joiner Day in Chestertown.
The 500-block of North Kent Street was closed for more than an hour, blocked at one end by a Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company ladder truck flying a 12x18 American flag. The Kent County Sheriff’s Office color guard made its entrance from the other end.
Joiner was honored in his driveway, having been escorted from his home by U.S. Navy veteran Mark Kutz and Troy Alexander of Masonic Lodge #115.
He sat quietly throughout the testimonials.
Ginny Teitt traveled from Columbus, Ohio to celebrate what she described as Joiner’s “100 years well-lived.”
She spoke of his courage and integrity, love and compassion, gentleness and kindness.
Teitt, her husband and their growing family — ultimately there would be seven children — were living in Worton when they were welcomed by Joiner and his late wife Henrietta in 1983 as what she described as a “family of the heart.”
Two years later Joiner would serve as a guardian angel, praying for Sam Teitt, then a toddler, who was fighting for his life after a near-drowning.
Sam Teitt made a full recovery.
To honor Harold Joiner, the Teitts named their youngest son Andrew Joiner Teitt and Sam Teitt named his son Charles “Charlie” Harold Teitt.
They all call Harold Joiner “Pop,” their adopted grandfather who is included in all family get-togethers.
Sam Teitt, now 37, also had traveled from Ohio for Saturday’s celebration.
“Thank you for loving us so well,” he said to Joiner.
A Chestertown native and graduate of the local high school, Joiner married his childhood sweetheart, Henrietta Gill, in 1942. Later that year, he joined the U.S. Army.
He gained the rank of first lieutenant as a co-pilot flying B-25s for the Army Air Corps. He completed 52 combat missions over Northern Africa and Italy.
Upon his return from the European Theatre, Joiner was stationed as a flight instructor for a year and a half in Greenville, S.C.
He was honorably discharged in 1945 and came home safely to resume his life in Chestertown.
On Saturday, Joiner was presented an American flag that had flown aboard a USAF C-130H in his honor on his 100th birthday. Kutz made the presentation on behalf of the 166th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the crew of CASTLE 09 (New Castle, Del.), who were conducting local combat training sortie over Maryland and Delaware on Nov. 10.
Del. Jay Jacobs, Kent County’s representative in the state House of Delegates, and Justin Teitt each read citations from Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Cerino read a proclamation proudly acknowledging “Harold as one of Chestertown’s own.”
Joiner received a number of gifts, citations and accolades from the Masons in acknowledgment of his 75 years of meritorious service. Among the presenters were Richard Naegele, grand master of the Grand Lodge of Maryland; Dean Burt, grand chaplain of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Maryland and a past master of Chester Lodge; and Bob Payne, Aaron Bramble and Bill Neff of Chester Lodge #115.
The celebration concluded with Ginny Teitt leading a chorus of “Happy Birthday” and cutting of the cake.
Afterward, Greg Joiner said he was awe-struck by the program that had been put together by Mark Kutz, who also is a member of Chester Lodge, and Ginny Teitt.
“I’ve never seen anything like that for a private citizen, to kind of take over the street and have the Masons come to your house,” Greg Joiner said.
In a personal tribute to his father, he added, “He’s done some good stuff in his day.”