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Grave sites can be cared for from afar

May 21, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

On Memorial Day weekend, Joyce Fox will travel from North Carolina, and her daughter will fly in from California for the Memorial Day service at Rest Haven Cemetery.

When Nelson Fox died in January, his family had him buried at the cemetery in the North End of Hagerstown, the city where he and his wife, Joyce, grew up.

However, the couple had lived in Raleigh, N.C., the last 10 years.

This will be Joyce Fox's first visit back since the funeral, and she will see the American flag that covered her husband's casket fly with more than 300 others at the Memorial Day ceremony. Nelson Fox served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1959.

She left the flag behind with Rest Haven officials after the funeral so it can be flown every year, she says.

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"I thought it would be lovely," she says.

Planning on visiting Hagerstown occasionally, Joyce Fox relies on family the rest of the year to check on Nelson Fox's grave site.

In Maryland, 10 percent of every burial lot purchase goes into a perpetual care fund for the cemetery, says George A. Piendak, director of the state's Office of Cemetery Oversight. Interest from that fund is used for maintenance, such as mowing.

People who live far away are reliant on the way a cemetery operates for good maintenance, he says. They also can have friends and family report any problems to them.

If a request or repair is made, Piendak says people can ask the cemetery to send them a photo showing the work has been done.

Both Rest Haven and Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown's South End have done that, officials with the cemeteries say.

Sometimes the ground settles and a footmarker sinks into the ground a bit, says Bill Divelbiss, executive vice president at Rose Hill. Once the marker is fixed, he has taken a picture and e-mailed it to the family.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, families of veterans might be checking to make sure their burial sites have veterans' grave markers and small U.S. flags by the headstones.

Divelbiss says he has free small U.S. flags, year-round, for the cemetery's customers who want to place one by their loved one's grave.

Officials with Rose Hill and Rest Haven can help make arrangements to get veteran grave markers from the Veterans Administration. These plaques include the veteran's name and military branch and lie flush with the ground.

Rest Haven sends a newsletter four times a year to family members so they know about upcoming events such as the Memorial Day ceremony, says Charles Brown, president of Rest Haven cemetery.

If you go ...


WHAT: Rest Haven Cemetery's annual Memorial Day celebration

WHEN: 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Monday, May 29

WHERE: at the top of the hill in front of Rest Haven Funeral Home and Chapel, Rest Haven Cemetery, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown

COST: free

MORE: Program includes a fiddler, bagpiper, trumpeters playing echo taps, speaker Maryland Del. John P. Donoghue and the Appalachian Wind Quintet. If it rains, the quintet will perform in the chapel. More than 300 flags donated by relatives of a loved one who served in the U.S. Armed Forces will be flown. The public is invited. Bring a chair or blanket.

WHAT: annual Rose Hill Memorial Day Service

WHEN: 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 27

WHERE: Rose Hill Cemetery, 600 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: free

MORE: Program includes guest speaker retired Brig. Gen. Jean Shinbur, a color guard, bagpiper and bugler. U.S. flags from families of veterans buried at the cemetery will be flown. Small U.S. flags for grave sites will be available for free. The public is invited.

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