Crash of Flight 5191

Amid sights and sounds of horses, a memorial service

The horses had finished their morning exercise, stood for their baths and perhaps seen the blacksmith or the veterinarian.

The rhythms of track life that bind racing people into community provided a natural setting yesterday for a memorial service for two horsemen who died in the crash of Flight 5191.

While friends and track workers recalled memories of Jeff Williams, 49, and George Brunacini, 60, tractors harrowed the racecourse immediately behind the group of 75 people who attended the trackside service at The Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike.

The setting was one that either man might have appreciated, since both have left behind racehorses in training at the center.

One of those thoroughbreds was an unnamed 2-year-old filly by Ordway that Williams, a trainer and polo player, was preparing for racing.

Williams’ friend Betsi McCullough of Lexington recalled his last ride on the filly, the day before the plane crash.

“He was always petting them,” she said, “and he sat so stoically on her, riding off, on his last ride. He was so proud of her that day.”

Williams loved all his fellow horsemen and even “the little, ugliest cat in the barn, to the dogs, the little creatures passing by in the morning,” McCullough said.

As the two of them walked back to the barn after what would be Williams’ final ride, McCullough remembers mentioning to Williams, “Just listen to the fall sounds,” for she was noticing the crickets.

Ordinarily he might have expressed impatience with her over small stuff like that, she said. But his response on that day was, “I hear them.”

McCullough said she is finding comfort from those final memories at the track. Her story of Williams’ final morning trackside, which she told after the service ended, almost mirrored the message delivered during the service by the Rev. William Marcum of Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

Marcum spoke on the great importance of the “hyphen” customarily inscribed on a gravestone between a person’s birth date and day of death. The use to which anyone puts the “hyphen” -- one’s lifetime -- answers the question, “What will they remember about us?” he said.

A friend of Brunacini’s, Martha Seagram, remembered the owner of Bona Terra Farm as one who “did everything in a big way.”

Brunacini moved from Albuquerque, N.M., more than 10 years ago and built up his 200-acre farm near Georgetown to where it had 120 horses.

During the service Seagram said, “The human dignity that George felt was the common link between everyone,” in describing how Brunacini appreciated the movers and shakers in the horse business as well as the small-time operators.

Another service is planned for 1 p.m. Friday at The Thoroughbred Center for Brunacini, Williams and horseman Dan Mallory, who also died in the crash of Flight 5191.

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