A veteran stands somberly while he views a grave before Memorial Day services in 2006. The veteran organizations in Carbon County present a memorial at some of the local cemeteries each year and many residents decorate graves of loved ones too.
On Tuesday the Sun Advocate announced that it will be heading up a drive to make sure everyone who has ever been buried in a cemetery in Carbon County gets their due this coming Memorial Day.
"I know that Memorial Day seems a long way off, but this is something I have been thinking about doing for a few years," said Richard Shaw, publisher. "When I started covering Memorial Day ceremonies that the veterans in the area do a number of years ago, afterward I would walk around the cemeteries and look at a lot of the graves. Out there I would see wonderful flowers and a flag on every verterans grave. But I also found a lot of neglected graves, many of which hand no flowers at all. Some were recent burials, but most were older graves where families have moved away or died off. It was very sad to see those."
The drive that was announced on Tuesday will be called "No Grave Goes Unadorned." The project will encompass many different people and organizations. The basic idea of the drive is to make sure there is at least one flower on every grave that exists in the county on Memorial Day.
"We are still organizing this but it will be a big job to be sure every cemetery and every grave is covered," said Shaw. "The state has records on the number of graves and we are going to check with the cities and the counties, as well as with the private cemeteries that exist in the county. But we believe there are about 20,000 graves in Carbon County."
That would mean, from somewhere, the money needs to be generated to buy 20,000 carnations or other kinds of flowers. It also means there needs to be an army of people to place them on graves over Memorial Day weekend.
"We all should know about our heroes and many of the people who went before us in this area are just that," said Shaw. "They built the businesses here, farmed the ground, mined the coal, worked for the railroad, educated children, sold groceries, the list goes on and on. These graves represent lives that should not be forgotten, even if no one that is alive today remembers their smile."
Memorial Day itself harks back to the Civil War when people started decorating graves of soldiers killed. Up until early in the last century it was known as Decoration Day for that reason. In fact some people still call it that. Soon after Decoration Day became popular people began decorating graves of all loved ones on that day. In the 1960s Memorial Day was solidified into a three day weekend by Congress as a national holiday. Because of that, according to Shaw, some people seemed to have forgotten the real purpose of the holiday.
"When I was a kid my parents went every Memorial Day to my grandparent's graves and others in the family who had died," said Shaw. "Now people do a lot of other things instead, and I am no exception to that. But I think it would be good for the community to come together to have some kind of a special Carbon County rememberance for all those that were here before us."
The project is just getting off the ground. The Sun Advocate is looking for other sponsors (corporate and private) to step up and help with some of the costs. The paper is also looking for service groups to come forward to help with the distribution of flowers on the Saturday before Memorial Day.
"We are going to have special pages in the newspaper commemorating this event," said Shaw. "Those that help will get mentioned. We will have different levels of sponsorship everything from someone donating $25 or less to $1,000 to help with the drive. I think this could be a great community project, one that celebrates our way of life. I have never seen anything like this done before. We could be unique by being the only county in the nation that does this kind of thing."
So far the Sun Advocate staff have been able to verify that the following cemeteries exist: Carbonville, Castle Gate, Central (Slovenian), Cliffview, Grames-Powell, Haycock, Hiawatha, Kiz, Mead/Peterson, Price City, Scofield, Spring Glen, Sunnyside Power Plant, Valley View, Wellington and Whitmore.
"I am sure there are a lot of private cemeteries we haven't thought about and we would like to honor those that are buried there too," stated Shaw.
The public is asked to let the paper know about graves or cemeteries that are not mentioned in the list. Also the newspaper will be looking for those that want to volunteer to help with the project.
"I already have some takers since we started talking about it last year. A number of organizations said they would help us. I just hope the community sees that this could be a great way to show how special Carbon County is, and how we honor our past," concluded Shaw.
For residents that have information or want to volunteer call DeAnna at the Sun Advocate at 435 637-0732 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.