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People honor loved ones at remembrance service

December 10, 2005|By TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

A prayer, an illuminated tree, a little choir music and a candlelit trek through a field covered with snow.

It was an evening steeped in tradition Friday at Rose Hill Cemetery on South Potomac Street as a small crowd gathered for the cemetery's annual remembrance service. It was a time to remember loved ones lost in the past year - or in any year, cemetery manager William Divelbiss said.

Luminarias lined the cemetery paths, their lights reflected in the fresh snow, as those in attendance huddled together, clutching their own candles.

Mindful of those who are grieving this Christmas, Divelbiss offered a prayer for comfort and peace. Afterward, Nick Giannaris, the longtime host of the "Evening with Nick" fundraiser and "Christmas with Nick" meals for the needy, flipped the switch to light a 60-foot pine tree - drawing muffled "ooohs" from the crowd.

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Divelbiss said he asked Giannaris to light the tree in honor of the Christmas feast the Hagerstown businessman sponsored for 17 years. "Christmas with Nick" was discontinued after 2002 because of Giannaris' declining health.

Once the tree was shining, members of Hebron Mennonite Church - who had donned warm apparel - harmonized on a number of ancient yuletide carols. Some in the crowd joined in as the choir sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Then a kilt-clad piper, standing alone in the snow, played a final carol before many in the crowd embarked on a procession through the cemetery.

The service, which Divelbiss said dates to 1991, is a yearly opportunity for the cemetery staff "to show people here we appreciate them," he said.

"We do this not for publicity, but to show people we're here for them in their time of need," Divelbiss said.

The size of the crowd has varied a bit in the ceremony's 15-year history; Divelbiss estimated this year's crowd at nearly 300 - a good showing, considering the fresh snowfall, he said.

"The most we had was 700," Divelbiss said. "It was a nice calm evening like this one, but not as cold. We didn't have enough candles."

Photo by Richard T. Meagher/Staff Photographer

Sally Rowe, left, of Williamsport, holds candles with her daughters, Savanah Horning, 2, and Salina Rowe, 9, during the annual remembrance service Friday night at Rose Hill Cemetery.

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