"I just didn't want anybody else to light his," said Shelly Trolio of Falling Waters, W.Va. "He loved Christmas."
The December holiday was also a favorite of Carl Smith, who died in August. His partner of 30 years, Judy Kinzer, turned out to Rest Haven to light a luminaire in Carl's memory and top his grave with the fresh greenery she had adorned with a snowman, ribbons, flowers and doves.
"He loved his birds," said Kinzer, of Hagerstown. "Merry Christmas, Smitty," she wrote beneath a faux cardinal perched atop a solar candle.
Rest Haven owner Charles Brown started the lighting ceremony 15 years ago because he "thought it would be something really meaningful for the families," he said. "They love it."
The efforts of several hundred volunteers - who create the luminaires with paper bags, sand and candles and place them on every grave site - make the event possible, Brown said.
Some of the volunteers had been working on the luminaires for two hours when Sharon Dick arrived at the cemetery at 8 a.m. with four high school students from Greencastle, Pa., she said.
The group- including students Joanie See and Jessica Higgins, both 17, and Jennifer Haines and Courtney Bingamon, both 16 - spent about nine hours helping at the event, Dick said.
"It's a way to combine the Christmas spirit with community service," Jessica said.
The Appalachian Wind Quintet filled the Rest Haven chapel with holiday sounds before the 4 p.m. lighting ceremony as members performed tunes ranging from the popular holiday song, "Let It Snow," to the Renaissance piece, "Fear Not, I Bring You Glad Tidings of Great Joy."
The St. James Brass Quintet performed at Haven Lutheran Church, which also featured a living Nativity. And the mystical sounds of Richard Conrad's bagpipe music echoed through the cemetery during the lighting of the luminaires.
Phil Paul bowed his head at the grave of his wife, Connie, after lighting a candle in her honor.
"This is only our second Christmas without her. It's hard," said Paul, of Hagerstown. "But time heals."