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They came bearing flags and flowers

By Staff | May 27, 2020

An annual tradition involving students, faculty and members of the Muncy Historical Society occurred last Wednesday. Flag placement at veterans’ graves interred at Muncy Cemetery was organized by fifth-grade teachers at Ward L. Myers Elementary School. Typically, fifth grade students place the flags; however, this year, elementary faculty, members of the school board and administration and their children canvassed the northern section of the cemetery, dispursing banners to the appropriate markers. Then, on Saturday, May 23, the American Legion and volunteers decorated the southern section of the property. The Luminary thanks all who participated in retaining tradition and respect during the pandemic.

In southeastern Lycoming County, vehicles carried individuals, plants and patriotic banners, paying homage to the dead were just as plentiful as any year. The difference was the lack of traditional Memorial Day services at the many cemeteries throughout the area. The Luminary spoke with some visitors who’d come prepared with tools, water and flowers. Following are tidbits of our conversations.

Rodger and Lois Lupold of Hughesville were at Pleasant Hill Cemetery with petunias and periwinkle to decorate the wife’s mother and grandparents, Marie Girton and Edna and Darrell Courson. Rodger brought a solution with Miracle-Grow to fertilize the plants. Referring to times gone by he said of knowing about agriculture, “I had worked on my uncle’s farm.” Lois said, “We come to the services here each Memorial Day, sometimes I sang with a vocal group. We’ll going to miss that this year, nothing seems the same since Covid-19 came.”

Joyce Schwenk (l.) and Michelle Cunningham are two devoted sisters and daughters working in Muncy Cemetery. They were accompanied by “Halo” who Michelle said, “She’s not an angel but tries to be one.” The three-year-old mixed Pit bull breed appeared to smile at the camera. Family graves attended include the girl’s uncles Locke Cunningham who’d served in the Air Force during Vietnam, and Kelly Cunningham. Parents are Jean and Lynn Cunningham. The sisters spoke of burial traditions they’d witnessed. Michelle said, “I’ve been in the state of Georgia where sand, not grass, covers graves. Often stones or bricks form where caskets lie.” Joyce said, “In Ireland where land is scarce, bodies are buried as much as three deep.” Both hope to someday visit cemeteries in New Orleans. Joyce said, “When I come alone to work at grandma Emma Eckman’s grave, I’ll bring a sandwich and picnic. Sometimes I’ll talk to her, too.”

John Harris trucked in his new cobalt-blue battery-powered lawnmower to Picture Rocks Cemetery to mow grass before returning to plant flowers. John began at the grave sites of his wife’s relatives. Mary Brink Harris is the daughter of World War II veteran William Brink. Another relative, John Brink, served in World War II and Korea. “My folks are here, too. My wife and I had always attended the annual Memorial Day Services hosted by the local Lion’s Club,” John said.

LuAnn Shupp of Hughesville was found working on a kneeling pad at her ancestors’ graves whose surnames consist of Buck, Fieste and Myers. LuAnn had recently been to Israel, and noted that, “There family members place prayers written on paper held down by a stone. I place a pebble on the markers whenever I come. When others see them, I believe it shows respect.”

David Ott and mother Virginia of Muncy had been to Webster Cemetery before coming to Pleasant Hill. One of the graves David tended was his direct ancestor Alfred Hayes. David said “Hayes had entered the Civil War when age 12, he missed Gettysburg but was at Cold Harbor. One story we’ve been told about the drummer boy was that a hole in one side of the drum hid chickens discreetly taken from farmers. I’ll bet that chicken had a headache before they got to their destination. It was also the young soldiers task to remove any severed limbs of soldiers away from the amputation site.” The drum and war stories of Hayes was placed in the repository at the Muncy Historical Society.