NAMI - Athens, An Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Ohio








Memorial Day 2010 on the Ridges

A special gathering commemorates those buried at the Ridges


From the time the first mental hospital patient was buried in the Ridges Cemeteries in the late 1870s until recently, no Memorial Day ceremonies were ever held there. Even the burials themselves were austere - with only four workers, a chaplain, and a hospital administrator in attendance. It would seem that folks with mental illnesses - buried quickly under numbered stones - were viewed as troublesome misfits, an embarrassment best forgotten.


Since 2000, the Ridges Cemeteries Committee has been working to refurbish and beautify the cemeteries and, in so doing, restore dignity to the deceased and fight stigma against their living counterparts.


Since 2005, the Committee has made sure that Memorial Day is celebrated there, too. This year, the ceremony was bigger and better than ever. A Color Guard from the Athens VFW/American Legion lowered the flag to half mast and then did a 21 gun salute.


The eulogy was given by PTSD-wounded Vietnam Veteran, Jim McGarrity. Ohio's First Lady Frances Strickland and Ohio Department of Mental Health Director Sandra Stephenson placed wreaths at two graves - one of  Civil War Veteran  Private William Monroe, and the other of a civilian, Viola Rapp.



Led by an  OU AFROTC Color Guard,  Strickland, Stephenson, and three generations of Rapp's descendants were driven in an Athens Police Department off-road vehicle to both grave sites for the wreath laying.




Finally, Mary Patacca conducted the dedication of a lovely memorial bench to her son, Vincent Riley.  Vincent, an Athens resident, had schizophrenia and passed away from a sudden illness, in July of 2009.



Throughout, each event was punctuated by songs by the Sweetadelines/ Hocking Valley Chorus. The raising of the flag and taps drew the day's events to a close.


The ceremonies - which lasted about an hour - drew an audience of around 200. Among those gathered were numerous persons in recovery from mental illnesses, family members, OU students and faculty, townspeople, and mental health administrators from Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, the 317 Board, and Tri County Mental Health.


In addition, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, State Representative Debbie Phillips, and State Senator Jimmy Stewart also attended this important stigma-buster.




Contact NAMI - Athens
Appalachian Behavioral Health Care, 100 Hospital Drive, Athens OH 45701
Phone: 740-593-7424   e-mail: