Friday, May 25, 2007

'A big homecoming'

People from several states visit Fairview Cemetery in Buchanan for a Memorial Day tradition.
The Roanoke Times
JoAnne Poindexter

Walter Barger remembers helping his mother carry containers of potato salad and other dishes over to the Buchanan Community House for Memorial Day dinners.

He also recalls going to the Community House, the gathering place for residents in Buchanan, when he was discharged from the Army Air Forces in November 1945.

His late mother, Eunice Barger, was a member of the Buchanan Improvement Society that operated the Community House, Barger recalled recently.

She also was one of the originators of a Memorial Day tradition -- a noon meal that raises money to maintain Fairview Cemetery.

Since 1942, the meal has always followed the 11 a.m. American Legion Post 93 memorial observance at the cemetery.

"It nets about 10 percent of what we need to pay our bills at the cemetery," said Barger, treasurer of the Fairview Cemetery Association.

"We solicit a lot of food. A cake here, a cake there" for the meal, Barger said, adding that the association is preparing for at least 130 diners this year. Tickets are $10 at the door.

People come from North Carolina, West Virginia and other places for the observance and meal, Barger said.

The dinners and the American Legion observances have become "a big homecoming celebration," said Harry Gleason, Buchanan's revitalization manager.

"We have people who may be here for only one time, come back to Buchanan" for Memorial Day, Gleason said.

He said he's also amazed at the number of families who grow peonies, make arrangements and take them to the cemetery.

"You don't see that happening very often. Nowadays the average person places live flowers on a grave for about two years [after a relative] dies. These families have been doing it for 30 to 50 years," Gleason said.

"It's beautiful to see all the flags and peonies ... some families even bring geraniums and pansies," he added.

Fairview Cemetery, one of four cemeteries in the Buchanan town limits, dates to 1854. It also was the first cemetery that was designated as a public cemetery in town and not affiliated with a family or church.

Some 97 Confederate soldiers and a Confederate sailor are among the veterans buried in Fairview. In addition, veterans of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts are buried there. A section where slaves were buried has no markers.

This year Boy Scout Troop 207, charted by Buchanan United Methodist Church, and their leaders Greg Childress and Rob Dudley will assist the American Legion in placing about 50 flags on graves of veterans Sunday afternoon for Memorial Day.

"Most Legionnaires are getting old and can't tramp around" the cemetery grounds, said Post Commander Charles Montgomery.

The post will hold its ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday around its 23-year-old War Memorial and then go to the Community House to eat.

Col. Keith Gibson, executive director of museum programs for Virginia Military Institute, will speak during the memorial service.

"It's important we remember our history, and we have to remember these boys who lost their lives so that we can live our life the way we live today," Montgomery said.

This year, the cemetery association also will place two flags in memory of the founders of the Buchanan Improvement Society and Oscar and Lucy Huffman, who donated the Community House to the improvement society for town use.

Barger said the cemetery association also is accepting $5 contributions to add a flag in memory of someone along Fairview's driveways. Contributions and the names of honorees and donors should be mailed to Fairview Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 553, Buchanan, VA 24066.

No comments: