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Memorial Day - Cedar Key style

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By Ada Lang

Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day, a time when flowers were placed on the graves of soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery to remember those who had died serving their country. The first Decoration Day was proclaimer in May 1868.  

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Since 1971, the last Monday in May has been the official observance of Memorial Day, and in Cedar Key it's marked with a solemn ceremony. On Sunday over 50 people came together to honor those lost. The shade of an old cedar tree combined with a cooling breeze to make the midday temperatures bearable.

Decorating around the flag pole, the anchor and the gate have traditionally fallen to the City, however, this year decorations disappeared and reappeared, baffling some people. The tattered wreath that had been hung on the anchor by city workers disappeared and a new red, white and blue decoration appeared, courtesy of Jan Allen, as well as, flags on the gates.

But, suddenly, that new decoration disappeared and a different, new patriotic decoration replaced it — thanks to a mysterious benefactor. But, it was no mystery who placed American-made American flags at the graves of every veteran she could find — Jan Allen with her friend Dottie Haldeman.

What started as a way to distract Allen after suffering the recent loss of her son, Craig, at age 38, became a mission that would not stop until the last flag was placed. Armed with multiple lists of names of veterans — dead and alive — the two women scoured the cemetery in Cedar Key and at Shiloh Road in Rosewood, determined not to miss anyone. If old tattered flags were on a grave, they were replaced with new ones. If they discovered a veteran whose tombstone was marked as such, a flag was placed. The lists even helped them locate veterans whose graves weren’t marked. 

They completed their task the day before the ceremony. Allen purchased the flags with both her money and with money that was donated by like-minded neighbors. Sunday, as participants arrived for the ceremony, over 200 flags waved them in.

Ivan Chubb, of the U.S. Marine Corps League Tri-County Detachment No. 1018, gave the welcome. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the Rev. Daniel Carswell of Cedar Key Church of Christ, led the prayer. Old Glory was unfurled into the windy sky; Mayor Pat O’Neal spoke of the sacrifices soldiers have made for the country and a rifle squad fired a salute. Taps was played as a riderless horse stood at attention and guitarist Sandy McQuitty led the group in patriotic songs. All present prayed for those in harm’s way and for their safe return.