Monday, May 28, 2012

Decoration Day

On Monday, we celebrate what used to be known as “Decoration Day” when I was a kid. The whole neighborhood turned out at the town cemetery armed with lawn mowers, clippers, and geraniums or marigolds to tidy up family graves. It was a great time to visit with family and friends (living and dead) while kids ran around (taking care not to step on any graves).

Sometime later Decoration Day turned into Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Some folks still mark the day by visiting cemeteries or memorials. If you like cemeteries, the library has some resources that might make your visit more interesting.

This Memorial Day spend some time in the Warrenton Cemetery visiting the Memorial Wall. The book, The Memorial Wall To Name the Fallen: Warrenton, Virginia Cemetery, lists the Confederate soldiers buried in the Warrenton Cemetery. Most of them died during or after the battles of First and Second Manassas (1861 and 1862).

If you’re researching family history, Fauquier County [Virginia] Tombstone Inscriptions Volumes 1 and 2, by Nancy Chappelear Baird and Carol Baird might be just what you need to solve a thorny genealogy problem. These two volumes include a list of cemeteries and burials in Fauquier County. They also include lists of Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers buried in the county cemeteries.

If inscriptions are your cup of tea, Those Who Were: Annotated Inscriptions of Two Thousand People in Warrenton, Virginia Cemetery, 1811-1998, by Lee Moffett may be just the ticket. Some deaths are listed chronologically while others are listed by profession: Horse People, Town Merchants, Educators, Construction, etc. There is also a section for people who died in the service of their country.

Sometimes gravestones are the real attraction. In his book, Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, Douglas Keister writes about the secrets of cemetery symbolism. For instance, did you know that it is quite rare to see a sunflower on a tombstone? Did you know that the human foot symbolizes humility and service since it consistently touches the earth?

But if you remember marking “Decoration Day” as I do, then don’t pass up “A Visit with the Folks”, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Russell Baker. Baker writes about going to the “churchyard cemetery on the side of an Appalachian hill in northern Virginia to call on family elders. It slows the juices down something marvelous.” This and other superb pieces drawn from his New York Times “Observer” column are collected in the book The Rescue of Miss Yaskell and Other Pipe Dreams.

Maria @ Warrenton

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