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



Memorial Day Ceremony on the Ridges - 2012

Athens, OH - May 2012


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

The 2012 ceremony was very moving one. From their vantage point under under a large tent at the top of the Tower Cemetery, the audience of about 100 looked down on sea of little American flags marking the graves of veterans – mainly from the Civil War. WWII Vet/POW Gifford Doxsee delivered the main eulogy stressing that untreated PTSD ruins lives and causes veterans to end up not only in mental hospitals but also in prisons where he now volunteers. Next, Ada Woodson Adams, President of the Multicultural Genealogical Center said a few words in memory of African American Civil war Veteran Israel Johnson and then, accompanied by Johnson relatives Polly and Stan Flowers, place a wreath on his grave. Finally, Vietnam Veteran, Caroline Cade, spoke about Morgan’s Raider Confederate Veteran, Eli Stephens and NAMI Supporter Lucy Blakeley placed Stephens wreath.

The dignity and solemnity of the ceremony were underscored by the participation of other groups and individuals. Cadets from the OU AFROTC acted as color guard and escorts in the placing of wreaths. Sharell Arocho, a singer with a powerful Aretha Franklin-like voice, sang the National Anthem and songs to punctuate the laying of the wreaths. The 21-gun salute was performed by Union/Confederate re-enactors under the command of Gary Shaw. And Nick Simko did taps toward the beginning and at the end of the ceremony.

In large part, our Memorial Day ceremonies are stigma-busters in behalf of persons with mental illness and are deliberately designed to attract media attention. In that object, this year's event was a grand success in that it was the subject of a short piece on National Public Radio followed by stories on WOUB and WATH, and articles in the Marietta Times, the Athens News and the Athens Messenger.



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