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Rose Hill Cemetery holds annual candlelight walk

December 14, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HAGERSTOWN ? The annual candlelight walk at Rose Hill Cemetery on Friday evening provided Debi Thompson and her family an opportunity to help her daughter through the tragedy of losing a child at birth.

Kierstyn Buck was stillborn in September.

"It's very nice that they take the time to set this up," Thompson said after several members of the family placed luminarias around her granddaughter's grave site.

This year's walk began with the lighting of the "Remembrance Tree" by cemetery executive vice president W.R. "Bill" Divelbiss, who relished the opportunity to flip the switch to the lights, which are crowned on top by a star.

"This is a time friends, family can come together to remember together," Divelbiss told the crowd who, after the lighting, walked to the cemetery's restored mausoleum where a choir sang holiday selections, and hot chocolate and cookies were served.

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About 800 white paper bags, weighed with sand and illuminated by small white candles, were placed along the roads of the 142-year-old cemetery. The glow of the luminarias licked at the interior marble walls of the mausoleum as the choir sang.

Celebrants young and old were bundled in heavy coats and clutched Styrofoam cups of cocoa. Some talked quietly. Others read some of the names engraved on the walls.

Loreda Elgin of Hagerstown was checking to see if an ancestor might have been buried there. She said she began coming to the candlelight walk when her mother and father died.

"I like the singing and lighting of the tree," said Elgin, who was impressed by the cemetery's work to restore the exterior of the mausoleum that was built in 1918.

For Jamie Griffith, his son, Jakob, and Griffith's father, James Griffith, the event is a fixture on the holiday calendar.

"It's a tradition to come every year," Jamie Griffith said.

The event began in 1989 with the tree lighting and expanded to include the walk in 1991. Divelbiss said his wife, Beverly, and Antietam Tree & Turf and other volunteers have helped him put the event together.

"I find it very rewarding," Divelbiss said.

The event is held in conjunction with the white bow, living memorial tree charity fundraiser that benefits area nonprofit organizations. Bows can be purchased for $2.

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