ELLSWORTH — As the holidays approach, many find themselves worrying about what gifts to purchase, which parties to attend and where to find the perfect wreath. This past Sunday, volunteers at Woodbine Cemetery took a break from festivities and found another purpose for balsam, in the form of memorial wreaths for veterans’ graves.
For the third year in a row, Woodbine Cemetery Association board members and other volunteers gathered to lay memorial wreaths on the graves of armed forces members buried at Woodbine. The event was originally scheduled for Saturday but postponed due to rain.
Marc Blanchette, Ellsworth city councilor and Woodbine Cemetery Association board member, founded the event as a way to honor all veterans laid to rest in the cemetery. The inspiration was Blanchette’s former classmate, Michael Wilder Davis of Ellsworth. Davis, who served in the Navy, was killed in 1982 in a plane crash and was buried at Woodbine.
“I have already put Michael’s wreath on his grave,” Blanchette said Sunday as volunteers gathered at the entrance to the cemetery. He noted that Davis’s mother attends each year. “She wouldn’t miss it,” he added.
When given the opportunity a few years ago to start laying the wreaths at Woodbine, Blanchette, a new member of the board at the time, “didn’t even ask the board,” he recalled while chuckling, citing his eagerness to make the event a reality.
On Sunday, Blanchette and Bill Clark, president of the Woodbine Cemetery Association, took a few moments to welcome those in attendance before sending everyone out to place 621 memorial wreaths throughout the cemetery. Participants, who included members of the Ellsworth Fire Department, were asked to say the name of each veteran before placing a wreath on his/her grave as a way to ensure the veteran’s memory is never forgotten.
Typically, the event begins with a formal ceremony, which usually includes a speech by a veteran, said board member Thelma Beal. Due to the event’s postponement, this year’s ceremony had to be canceled.
Beal noted that the board continuously works on projects designed to “bring the cemetery back.” Projects include fixing roads, keeping up the grounds, creating space to make new plots, learning how to clean and restructure markers and monuments and teaching “locals how to maintain family stones.” The board also works to preserve the 42 burial plots without names. Beal expressed appreciation for all those “willing to come out” to lay the wreaths.
The memorial wreaths are made by Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington.
“We have an arrangement with Wreaths Across America,” said Clark. He noted that the 621 wreaths for this year’s event are the most Woodbine has received.
As the event grows, the goal is to one day have 1,200 wreaths, one for every veteran buried at the cemetery.