Cemeteries can be lonely places. Years ago our oldest granddaughter was staying overnight with us. She and I went out to breakfast. She was probably eight years old. She asked about Peg’s mother and father whom she had never met. They died before she was born. I told her they were buried side by side. She asked where, so we drove to Calvary Cemetery so she could see their graves. Ike and Rita passed away the same week. Calvary is the only Catholic cemetery in Tacoma. The cemetery was incorporated in October, 1905. We had not visited the grave site since the funeral, but I knew exactly where they were.
According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society. “There are more than 100 known burial sites, graveyards and cemeteries of various types throughout Pierce County.”
Graves are the final resting place for many people. A cemetery is the place were loved ones may return to remember the past and special moments. Years pass, and people sometimes forget to return . . . or they pass away as well. Graves remain, however. Markers, tombstones, and monuments weather and age. They show wear, they stain, and sometimes they crack and break.
Lots of people think that cemeteries maintain the graves and gravestones, but that’s not true. They maintain the grounds, only. Many a Boy Scout has earned a badge or two by volunteering to help clean up cemeteries and grave sites.
Recently, in honor of “9/11 Day”, hundreds of local volunteers stepped forward and gave Puyallup’s Woodbine Cemetery a major makeover. With gloves, buckets, and rakes in hand, community members rallied their friends and family in service as headstones were uncovered, gravestones were cleaned, flower beds were weeded, and other projects were completed.
When people work together, good things happen. Puyallup City Government Employees, Latter-day Saints, and other community volunteers partnered honor the National Day of Service.
Carissa Poyfair, a local Latter-day Saint who attended Saturday’s event, said of the experience, “My family and I had so much fun helping to clean up the Woodbine Cemetery. It was amazing to see so many people there, selflessly serving their community and with such positive and loving attitudes. Everyone was willing to pitch in wherever they were needed, and we left the project feeling so happy that we were able to help improve this little historical landmark in Puyallup.”
The National Day of Service and Remembrance has been set aside as a day of unity, community service, and love. In a 2009 Presidential Proclamation, President Obama officially recognized the National Day of Service and Remembrance as “an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, and recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks”. He then called on all Americans to “rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.”
Kathy Stancik, of Woodbine Cemetery, understands the value of connecting with the community in meaningful service. With the help of the Latter-day Saints, not only were hearts uplifted and friendships strengthened, but great improvements were made to the cemetery. Kathy states, “[The volunteers] worked hard raising headstone markers, laying bricks for a wall, blowing pine needles off of graves. This was a huge accomplishment and kick off to our fall cleanup. We appreciate all the work done. The grounds look great.”
Today, despite it’s humble beginnings, “9/11 Day” has grown by leaps and bounds, and is officially the largest annual day of service in the United States. More than 15 million Americans each year participate in a variety of ways, offering their time, including volunteering in their local communities, making charitable donations, and sharing in small acts of kindness with those around them.
If you are looking for an opportunity to participate in the next National Day of Service, and want to make a difference in your community by doing a good deed, visit JustServe.org, for a list of volunteer service projects in our community.
I never tire of learning from Cloe Jones, South Hill Stake Assistant Director of Public Affairs, as she shares the efforts of her friends. This project of cleaning and restoring headstones is a nice example of what our neighbors can do.
You might not know it, but headstones are quite fragile and should be respected. A friend, now retired from the business says, “It’s slow tedious work, often sped up with a pressure washer that does serious and irreparable damage to marble, sandstone and cement.” “Every cleaning has the potential to damage the stone, even if you are exceedingly gentle. Avoid cleaning the stone as a way to honor your loved one. If the stone doesn’t need to be cleaned, you can find other ways to honor their memory. If the stone has been dirtied by mud or other materials, then it is okay to clean it. Just be aware that once you begin cleaning a stone, you will find that you need to do so on a regular basis.” – wikihow.com/Clean-a-Gravestone
If you would like to help your community, you don’t have to wait until next September, and you don’t have to work in a cemetery. There are many community projects that could help Puyallup, Lakewood, University Place, DuPont, and Tacoma . . . right now.