Veterans Cemetery keeper Paul Goins dies at work

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 7/12/20

A pair of devoted brothers were untimely separated Thursday morning, when one passed away while involved in a community service he dearly loved.Paul Edward Goins, who celebrated his 70th birthday on …

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Veterans Cemetery keeper Paul Goins dies at work

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A pair of devoted brothers were untimely separated Thursday morning, when one passed away while involved in a community service he dearly loved.

Paul Edward Goins, who celebrated his 70th birthday on June 27, died of what is believed to have been a heart attack.

He and his brother, Robert "Bullet" Goins, were busy maintaining the Bradley County Veterans Cemetery at Fort Hill, a volunteer effort they have taken care of for more than 20 years.

Paul  had heart problems for many years, and required a caregiver. His father, the late Paul E. Goins, a U.S. Army veteran, provided Paul's  care until his passing in 1998. Brother Robert then took up this task of family love.

That is also how the brothers first became involved with maintenance of the Veterans Cemetery, the final resting place of their father. They provide loving care for the more than 250 gravesites of Bradley County veterans, and some of their spouses.

Robert took up the maintenance first, but was joined by Paul a few years later. The two could be found at the cemetery on any given day, and Thursday was one of those days.

Robert said he was busy with the larger mower on one section of the cemetery, and went to check on his brother, who was using a push-mower to trim up in another section.

Robert, very emotional in relating the story Friday, said his brother was sweating and said he was hot and having chest pains.

"He fell back, put his hands up to his head and said, 'Don't let me die,'" the older brother related. "He died right there."

One consolence, Robert said, was that Paul was doing something that he loved.

"Bullet" emphasized he was going to be at a loss without his brother, and was struggling somewhat in meeting the demands of making final arrangements. Those plans had not been finalized Friday morning, but Robert was venturing on to Rush Funeral Home after the Banner interview.

The two brothers have been praised multiple times for their upkeep of the Veterans Cemetery. Robert said he plans to continue with this task, although it will be different, and difficult.

"It won't be the same without my brother there," he offered solemnly.

The brothers were born and raised in Cleveland and Bradley County, and are widely known in the community. They were the sons of Paul E. and Rachel Idabelle Hinkle Goins.

They have two sisters who live in Cleveland — Barbara Goins Murcheson and Sandra Goins Seagraves.

Paul attended Allen School, and Robert was at Arnold.

Neither continued through high school, but with introduction from their late father, they were probably the biggest sports fans in Cleveland High School history. The trio didn't miss a Cleveland High football game from 1966 through 1998, when their father passed.

Robert attended 40 games in a row, but admitted he has missed a few recently.

Robert could have gone to Cleveland High School when it was founded, and said he regrets that failure.

"But, I have become friends with many  who played sports at Cleveland High," he said.

Through the years, the brothers and their family became close to former Cleveland High School Coach Benny Monroe, who guided the Blue Raiders to three consecutive state championships in football.

"Benny was one of the last people to see my father," remembered Robert. "He came to the hospital, but they said he couldn't go into intensive care. He claimed he was family, and went in and spoke to my dad."

Robert said a number of friends had already called him Friday morning, when they heard of his brother's passing. They included Monroe, businessman Allan Jones — who had a longtime association with Paul — and John Thomason, who heads up the Bradley County Funeral Honor Guard and assists with events involving the Veterans Cemetery (such as Wreaths Across America).

Jones regards his memories of the brothers, especially Paul, among his most cherished possessions. (See accompanying article in this edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)

Over the years the brothers had been involved in a number of odd jobs and other endeavors in the Cleveland community.  Their involvements may not have been major, but they became well-known for their efforts on behalf of the community, such as the upkeep of the Veterans Cemetery.

They both have been recognized, and presented awards by elected officials and local organizations, as well as by individuals who understood the nature of their volunteerism and showed full appreciation. All are awards the brothers treasured.

Much of their volunteerism has been with veterans projects, although neither served in the military. Those efforts were in recognition of their father, and his service to his country.

Following their father's tour of duty, he was employed with Magic Chef for more than 30 years, while he and his wife were raising their family.

He was also instilling in his sons a love of athletics, especially Cleveland High School football.

[John] Thomason, in a previous article in the Banner, praised the volunteer efforts of the brothers in their upkeep of the Veterans Cemetery.

"They have done a fine, responsible and very able job over the past years," Thomason said. He mentioned they were instrumental in placing more than 100 headstones.

The work they did included mowing and trimming the grass, care and cleaning of the new pavilion, leveling off burial plots,  applying grass seed, and more.

It was a true labor of love, and as a grieving Robert emphasized on Friday, "Paul died while he was doing something that he loved."

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