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Residents honor loved ones during Rose Hill ceremony

December 11, 2004|By TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

The glow of flames that wound around Rose Hill Cemetery Friday night symbolized the reason several hundred people attended a candlelit remembrance walk there - to honor loved ones buried at the cemetery.

"Christmas is a special time, and it's a time of remembrance, and we can never ever let those memories die," Bill Divelbiss, executive vice president of the cemetery, told a crowd of 200 to 300 people.

People huddled under umbrellas to keep dry from the light rain that fell as state Sen. Donald Munson lighted a tree outlined with white lights.

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"This is one of the nicest events of the season and of the year," Munson said.

The tree, known as the Remembrance Tree, is lighted once a year "to remember all who have loved ones laid to rest at Rose Hill," a plaque in front of the tree states.

"May their memory always be bright in your heart, and the glow never dim," the plaque states.

Shortly afterward, the crowd - holding candles - walked around the cemetery to end the ceremony.

John Ridenour of Hagerstown, who rode his bicycle around the cemetery, said he attended the event "just to enjoy it" and to honor some of his friends who had died.

Divelbiss said staff began placing more than 2,000 luminarias around the cemetery at 2:30 p.m.

The annual ceremony began in 1989 as a tree-lighting event. Two years later, the walk was added, which included a walk to City Park.

This year, the walk to City Park was dropped because participation in that part of the event decreased during the last couple of years.

Divelbiss said after the ceremony that a large number of people who attended had loved ones who died this year.

Others, he said, make it a point to attend every year, even if they don't have friends or family members buried at Rose Hill.

"It's become a tradition," Divelbiss said.

To spread word of the event, Divelbiss said Rose Hill sent personal postcards to those who lost loved ones this year, gave brochures to customers and placed ads in the newspaper.

The cemetery also sent fliers to area churches and requested the event be mentioned in the churches' bulletins.

"I'm really pleased with the turnout," Divelbiss said. "I'm really touched by that. It made my day."

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