Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities



Morgan Hall 

The Ashland Beacon


   Somewhere in the tri-state area, a nurse is being laid to rest. The Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities serves the tri-state area and beyond. These wonderful folks attend the funerals and stand guard with the deceased. They have a brief ceremony where they take turns speaking different parts and offering blessings to their loved ones. We spoke with Dorothy Spillman, President and Funeral Service Director of the Nurse Honor Guard, “We try to rotate parts every time we have a service, so that everyone has a chance to learn different parts. For instance, if someone has the opening part but can’t be there. All members know the opening and can easily step in and do their part. It makes everything run smoothly. We started September 26, 2019 and a friend of mine sent me a video of a Nurse Honor Guard and once I watched that video, it became my passion. This is God’s work; He is the one that initiated every bit of this.”

   You might have seen this organization at the Ironton Memorial Day Parade dressed in their lily white uniforms with capes that are red on one side and blue on the other. Spillman elaborated on the significance of the capes and why they are important, “The capes were worn during the war and that’s how people knew they were nurses. When they saw the color red, they knew the nurses were there to help the wounded soldiers.” This lovely group of folks have won the Ironton Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshall award two years in a row. 

   Spillman explained how the development of the group evolved, “I was invited to a nurse retirees luncheon at KDMC and I reached out to an acquaintance Maria Oaks and asked her to help me get the ball rolling on this organization. One week later, we scheduled a meeting at the library and we had six people there. Now we have about 32 members and we have done about 104 funeral services. This service is free of charge and per the families request.” These ladies are so happy to volunteer their time to serve. 

   When speaking with member Ann Riffe, she shared the joy it brings her to be a part of this organization, “We get the blessing! We only do a seven minute program and it’s really heartfelt, we each say our parts and it’s very rewarding to take part.”

   The Nurse Honor Guard have gone as far as West Liberty to attend funeral services. “If we get a call and nobody covers that area, we will go,” confirmed Spillman. They have plans on meeting with another potential chapter of The Nurse Honor Guard in Flemingsburg to help get their own organization up and going. “The group in Flemingsburg wants us to come down and practice with them and show them what to do and help them start their very own chapter,” shared Spillman. 

   If you’re a Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner you are encouraged to join the group. The only caveat being that you have to be a nurse or retired nurse. “It is such an honor for us to pay tribute to a fallen nurse. That is the last thing we can do to pay tribute to them and honor them. It takes a nurse to know what a nurse goes through,” adds Spillman. 

   Many of the members are still working nurses, so they are not able to make all the events but are there when their work schedules permit. The group is very understanding that people have families and other commitments and as long as they have five or six people to attend a funeral it makes a good service, but sometimes they may have more people. 

   The group wanted to remember their friend Maria Oaks who was the original Nurse Honor Guard President and Spillman was the Vice President, unfortunately Oaks passed away this past April. They had 17 of the Nurse Honor Guard attend her funeral. “I think that’s one of the toughest funerals that any of us have done,” comments Spillman. Many of the ladies teared up just at the mention of their dear friends passing, as they nodded in agreement.

   Spillman shared there has recently been an influx of younger members joining. Someone recently inquired about joining the group, once they had seen pictures of them on social media. She was given an application and she made multiple copies and handed them out to nurses that she works with at the hospital. “As new members come in, they bring in new ideas and we are open to suggestions and ideas,” said Spillman. 

   This organization not only attends funerals, but also parades, as well as helping provide scholarships for people seeking higher education. They actually awarded two scholarships for Collins Career Center. They also sell cookbooks to raise money and are funded purely on donations and fundraising efforts. If you would like to make a donation, please send it to:

Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities, PO Box 921, Ashland, KY 41105.

   If you’re a nurse and would like to join this organization, you can check them out on Facebook under “Nurse Honor Guard of the River Cities”