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NEWS and EVENTS

 

Memorial Day on The Ridges - 2011

 

May 30, 2011

 

From the time the first 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 oldest of the three cemeteries – by the water tower – was chosen as the site for our ceremony.  The day was beautifully sunny and though the temperature was well over 90 degrees, a big tent at the top of the hill provided soothing shade.  From that vantage point, the audience could look out over a cemetery ablaze with small American flags in veterans’ stands placed by OU Archivist Doug McCabe. 

 

 

 

 

Master of Ceremonies, Tom Walker, reminded the audience that most of these veterans – almost exclusively from the Civil War - probably wound up in the asylum because of untreated, war-inflicted post traumatic stress disorder.  In his eulogy, Afghan and Iraq War veteran Eric Burke reiterated that theme as he spoke and then read from a eulogy by Civil War veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes.

 

 

As in the 2010 ceremony, wreaths were placed on two graves – one of a veteran and one of a non-veteran.  Former Ohio Department of Mental Health Director Sandy Stephenson and NAMI Ohio CEO Terry Russell spoke and decorated the graves of Civil War Veteran Adam Kern and tailor/poet Almon Edson.  Descendents of both men were present at graveside.  Jill Hughes (great, great, great granddaughter of Mr. Edson),  also said a few words.

 

At the end of the ceremony, Peete Bowen said some words for the late Ridges Cemeteries enthusiast, Harold Forest, as his friends sprinkled his ashes along the Nature Trail around  Peter Nagy Pond.

 

Adding to the beauty and solemnity of the ceremony, a mixed Army/Air Force ROTC unit performed various acts, Civil War re-enactors did a rifle salute, the Hocking Valley Chorus sang four songs,  and Vietnam War veteran Caroline Cade played taps.

 

 

To see a video of the event, click here.

 

For the Athens News coverage of the event click here .

 

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