On what was once called Decoration Day, Dick Rishel’s extended family has set flowers at family graves for nearly 100 years.
First to York’s Prospect Hill Cemetery then to Greenmount Cemetery, the caravan of cars snakes through the two sites to decorate– literally– the graves of great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. The flowers come mostly from family gardens, with a little help from local florists.
Decoration Day began in 1868, and was primarily designated as a time to decorate Civil War dead. The holiday continued and expanded to family graves as well, and in 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday.
“Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.” U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
While Decoration Day or Memorial Day was founded originally to honor fallen war veterans, Rishel’s family and many others have taken that a step further. Charts with family trees and sites of old houses are examined, discussed and questioned. It’s another way to keep the family together, he says.
It could all be rehashed here, but Rishel explains it best in the video, behind a photo backdrop of this year’s decorating.