Visit just about any cemetery in the USA and you’ll see the reach of its military might. You’ll find those who served in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other far flung times and places. You’ll find people who served in the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps. Most will have a veteran’s marker. But it was in Balaton, MN, at Lakeside Cemetery, that I stumbled across my first Fire brigade marker.
The fire brigade in Balaton is a volunteer service, founded in 1908. For more than a century, members of the local community have volunteered to respond to calls for help in the area. Thankfully, calls are few but their willingness and readiness to serve warrant the markers. I was struck by the circularity of William Mumby being born the year the service was founded and then going on to serve himself. As in South Green Lake, here, too, the etchings on the stones give a hint as to what those interred enjoyed in life. And here, too, marriage is a feature. Sadly, Lois Knutson died earlier this summer.
It’s always sad to see young people cut down in the prime and harder still to make any sense of it. I read somewhere that we choose our own lives because we have lessons to learn. I find this strangely comforting and after digging a bit, I came across Soul Proof – it makes for interesting reading. Stopping to say hello to Jordan, I smiled at ‘roll the coal’ and thought of friends of mine who still live in the catchphrases they’ve left behind.
Someone told me once that we die twice. Once when we actually die and a second time when our name is said for the last time. Brian Bleil’s epitaph is a message for us all. But truth be told, the woman I really wanted to pay my respects to was Stella Tisue. Stella Tisue was born in 1888 and died in 1996. She was Grand Marshall of the Centennial Parade back in 1992. Now there’s a woman I’d like to have met.
Cemeteries are fascinating places, repositories of stories, monuments to tradition, and chronicles of history. And a reminder that the same fate awaits us all, regardless of breed, creed, or generation.