Off The Press

June 1, 2010

By Kathleen R. Merrill

More than 100 people showed up Memorial Day at Hillside Cemetery to pay their respects to veterans, so it was a shame the annual ceremony had to be cancelled.

Kathleen R. Merrill Press editor

There is little parking at the cemetery. Most of it is along roads through the place. Unfortunately, many graves are close to those roads. It’s a juggling act to find a spot where you can be off the road enough and also away from nearby grave markers.

People were sad to be turned away. But Dave Waggoner, assistant quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3436, who heads up the ceremony, said safety for everyone was the main concern.

On May 29, as volunteers were walking the rows, placing flags and crosses on the final resting places of veterans, people were slipping on the already saturated, muddy ground. It was much worse two days later. In fact, cars that had pulled off the road were leaving deep ruts in places, and by Memorial Day one had even driven over a headstone.

Next year, a contingency plan will be made for inclement weather. So, if you turned out for this year’s ceremony only to be turned away, please return. It’s so important these men and women are not forgotten.

I had the pleasure of meeting a man out there in the rain who refuses to forget — Art Converse who lives in the May Valley area. Art served four years in Vietnam. On Memorial Day, he came to the cemetery looking for the grave of Robert Hoskins, one of 19 men and women named on the monument at Veterans Memorial Field as being killed or missing in action during wartime.

Art had seen Hoskins’ picture in our section “Lest we forget” that ran May 26. Art said he noticed Hoskins was a fellow Marine and he didn’t know whether the young man, who was 19 when he died, still had family in the area who would remember him.

His kindness brought tears to my eyes, as it does now to recount the tale. Art brought some flags to the cemetery, and specifically one to put on Hoskins’ grave. I watched him for a moment — without a coat, without an umbrella — at the grave we directed him to. He stood for a while, and knelt at some point, placing the flag in the soft ground. He also put flags on two other veterans’ graves.

Thank you, Art, for your service, and for remembering the service of others.We didn’t intentionally forget anyone in our section. We put out a call for pictures and information about veterans in many ways, through word of mouth, in the paper for more than a month, at the farmers market and on our website. We ran all of those we received.

We will continue to collect them, because we plan to do the section again, so please send your photos and information to me at Or if you know of veterans we didn’t hear from, let me know and I will try to track them down.

What we do not encourage you to do is talk with people who have decided to use this important tribute to veterans to try to sell people things. How disgusting.

We did not nor would we ever give anyone’s contact information to anyone. If you get a call from anyone, saying they got your name from us, as people have reported to me has already happened, feel free to hang up. Or do what I would do. Tell them, “Shame on you.”

Kathleen R. Merrill: 392-6434, ext. 227, or Comment at

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