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Memorial Day brings ritual, respect to West Elfers Cemetery

HOLIDAY — Where but a graveyard does remembrance feel so urgent?

Nearly 30 people gathered close Monday, Memorial Day, beside a single white tent at West Elfers Cemetery.

George Morgan III, a funeral director, asked them to remember all the military veterans who died on their behalf. They listened as a recording of taps played; they watched as a color guard unit of the Knights of Columbus stood at attention; they sang along to God Bless America and America the Beautiful.

Jeff Cannon, a historian, asked them to remember one specific veteran, Francis E. Lysek, a local boy who lived in a two-story home with a windmill in Hudson and served as a boatswain's mate, first class, in the Navy during World War II. He was buried at West Elfers on Aug. 26, 1998, one of the most recent veterans to be interred there.

And as they stood in the 130-year-old cemetery, neglected until a group of volunteers jumped into action a few years ago, they remembered other people, too.

Susan Henry remembered her mother and her father-in-law, both of whom are buried at West Elfers. She remembered the way the cemetery had looked so forgotten for so long.

"The veterans deserve respect," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "And they didn't get it for many years."

Milissia Posey brought her family out to remember military veterans and her cousin, Douglas Allen, who died in a car accident in 2000 and is buried in West Elfers. That accident also killed Posey's fiance and Allen's pregnant girlfriend.

Posey remembered visiting her cousin's grave in West Elfers only a few years ago.

"There'd be beer bottles lying around," she said. "People had kicked over the headstone of that veteran."

She shook her head at the memories. She shaded her eyes as she looked out at the graves before her and the graves behind her.

"They didn't ask to be here," she said. "This is where life takes you."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Memorial Day brings ritual, respect to West Elfers Cemetery 05/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:17am]
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