Community service project turns into a life lesson

Every year the Fulton VFW Post #569 and Fulton American Legion undergo the task of honoring locally buried veterans by placing a flag and many times a new flag holder at his/her place of burial in seven local cemeteries.

Last year, while waiting for a spring burial service, Theresa A. Sugar Scanlon and Laurie A. Sugar-Compson (of Sugar-Scanlon and Sugar funeral homes) noticed that many of the members placing the flags were World War II veterans (75 years old and older) walking the cemetery alone without any help for placing the flags so that the cemeteries in their charge were ready for Memorial Day weekend.

“This year, we contacted them to see if they would like us to see if we could get some volunteers from our local school system. We were notified by the person in charge that he would welcome the help of our local teenagers on Sunday (May 18) from 9 a.m. until finished (depending on the number of volunteers) to place the flags on our local American veterans buried in Mount Adnah Cemetery and St. Mary’s Cemetery,” they said.

“We had a very busy morning meeting with members of the Fulton VFW Post #569 and the Fulton American Legion at Mount Adnah and St. Mary’s cemeteries in Fulton to help with the placement of flags upon the graves of our local veterans,” Sugar-Compson said. “We had requested help from the students of Fulton Junior High and G. Ray Bodley High School’s boys’ lacrosse teams and the Fulton 13-14 indoor and travel boys’ soccer team.”

They had approximately 50+ students and parents with additional adult Fultonians who met to volunteer their time to this community event.

They started at 9 a.m. at the entrance of Mount Adnah Cemetery located off of State Route 3 on the east side of Fulton.

There was at least one parent to every four children for supervision and for transportation purposes since they first placed flags at Mount Adnah Cemetery and then went down the road to St. Mary’s Cemetery.

“It was a wonderful experience to watch the students ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old listen to directions from the man in charge, Mr. John Young, and then began to place flags, upright the usable flag holders and replace the broken flag holders as they walked the length and width of both cemeteries in a systematic way,” said Theresa Sugar Scanlon (of Sugar-Scanlon and Sugar funeral homes). “It was equally heartwarming to catch a glimpse of some of the students pausing for a moment and reading several of the headstones and then calling their friends over to show them a unique monument or read a heartfelt message in the epitaph.”

One boy said, “Wow this one was in World War I,” she added.

Others mentioned that they were surprised to see so many people/couples who were married for more than 50+ years (as the years were listed on the individual monuments).

Several also paused to learn about the memorial garden at Mount Adnah because it didn’t make sense to some of them as to why the stones were set up a little differently than the rest of the cemetery until one of the funeral directors daughter explained how large caskets were not buried there, but instead smaller urns or containers of individuals who have chosen to be cremated and then buried.

What began as a community service effort-project turned into a life lesson for many of those who participated.

“We also saw how the adults would stop for a moment and watch the reactions of the younger people when they saw a stone that may have said for example ‘Going Home,’ ‘Gone Fishing,’ or how the pictures etched on the stones told a story of a life once lived,” Sugar-Compson said.

The history of the cemeteries did not go unnoticed as several boys also remarked about the large mausoleums dating back to the 1800s in Mount Adnah and how they were awesome because they were made like a concrete shelter directly into the hillside.

The group ended the morning with pizza and water provided by the Sugar Funeral Home and Sugar and Scanlon Funeral Home.

They would like to thank the owner of Red Baron Pizza, Fulton, Mr. Wes Dean for going into work on a Sunday – a day off to make the sheet pizzas for the volunteers.

When Mr. Dean learned that students were volunteering to help the local veterans groups, he didn’t hesitate to change his plans and help provide lunch.

“We at the Sugar Funeral Home and Sugar and Scanlon Funeral Home would like to publicly thank our local veterans for having served our country and how they continue to serve our community. We would also like to thank them on our behalf and the behalf of all of the participants of the flag placing, because it was truly a wonderful experience and we enjoyed being a part of a small slice of your history. As a bonus, the veterans present welcomed our help and extended an invitation for us to come back next year to help prepare our cemeteries for Memorial Day. Therefore, thank you all for a job well done,” said Theresa Sugar Scanlon and Laurie Sugar-Compson.

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