Sunday, March 20, 2016

...Touching Roses and the 4th Annual Rose Pruning and Maintenance Day at Hollywood Cemetery...

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.  It's not.
~Dr. Seuss

Saturday was one of those wonderfully busy days... or perhaps it was one of those busy wonderful days. The ones that are so packed that you wish there were just a bit more time to reflect.  I had three fun events squished into one day. Today, I’ve had time to reflect on each.

To start, Saturday began with the 4th Annual Rose Pruning and Maintenance Day at Hollywood Cemetery. I just knew it was going to be a good day because on the way there, I heard "I Touch Roses" by Book of Love. I see signs but coincidences. Last year was my first year volunteering and I wrote about my experience here

This year was a bit chilly compared to the other days this week when I was wearing t-shirts and shorts. With the possibility of rain, I added extra layers. I thought it turned out to be a perfect day to be in the cemetery. It was overcast so I wasn’t squinting and hey, it didn’t rain.

I like Rose Volunteer Day for several reasons. First, it’s completely well-organized. Connie from Hartwood Roses is the *Rose Boss*. For weeks (months?) before the volunteering event, she drives an hour South to survey the roses and to determine what needs to be done. There are over 100 roses in the cemetery so this isn’t done on one day but on several visits. She then organizes all the data along with the list of volunteers (e.g. which volunteers know about roses, which volunteers are repeat workers, which can be trusted to find their way around the cemetery, etc). I know there is a ton of effort involved because I had lunch with Connie on Friday, which was her short break before returning to creating folders and inserts for each team of volunteers. I know I’m leaving out a ton of details of her efforts but Connie is super humble so you don’t always know exactly how much work she’s put in.

Another reason I like Rose Volunteer Day is because I can meet people who like what I like. There is a variety of folks who love cemeteries. I think my favorites are the historians and genealogists because they remind me of my grandfather who was a genealogist. Unfortunately, as a kid I didn’t appreciate it enough and with a family feud (between other family members) I missed out on seeing him for over a decade. My earliest memories of him are hearing, “Sweet Pea, what is that there?” and having him hand me a piece of paper to decipher his writing. Or, something like, “See that name here (drawn out Richmond accent for *here* which sounds more like he-ya), check over yonder if you can see that name”… and with that, I ran off in the cemetery or graveyard searching for a distant ancestor. I love hearing stories of people. I think that is why I became a literature professor. It’s basically a career in reading stories about people.

One of our assigned roses
On Saturday, I was paired with a friend whom I had invited. Joe and I met while we were in Guide School together but other than Facebook, I haven’t seen him since about May 2014 so we had a great deal of catching up to do while also being assigned about six or seven roses. We had three *?* roses on our list which meant there possibly was a rose bush there but it may have died or it may be wrong information, etc. Joe was great to work with because while I know the cemetery, the map we realized has particular sections. His background, aside from being a photographer, was doing geological digs so he can read a map for sure. We found all of our plots but one. Today I spent some time researching who these individuals were. That’s another thing I love. I get to meet *living* friends and also those who reside in the cemetery.

One of our question mark roses was for Mrs. Emma Trainer Burkholder. She did have a rose bush on her gravesite. Our instructions were pretty basic-- clean away all the dead limbs and weeds. What I discovered around the base was an old rusty wire fencing. I unwrapped that so hopefully it will flourish this year. 

After a little bit of research, I learned that Mrs. Burkholder, who was born in Illinois and somehow made her way to Richmond, VA, was a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her ancestor who fought in the American Revolution came from Switzerland. I also learned that the Virginia Historical Society actually has a collection of records including a death certificate and a family Bible that belonged to her family. I’d like to investigate some more to find out more about her inscription, “Music is born of love.” But we don’t find out everything about a person on the first encounter so I have a bit of work to do to learn more.

Another reason that I like this event is because the Friends of Hollywood Cemetery are great hosts. The Executive Director Kelly Wilbanks shows up to these volunteer events. She is gracious and makes sure that the Friends group provides volunteers with bottle water and boxed lunches from Sally Bell’s, a  family-owned establishment that has been serving homemade sandwiches and baked goods nine decades. I’m adding this little detail for those of you who aren’t local. My Sally Bell’s boxed lunch included a pimento cheese sandwich, a deviled egg, a pecan & cheese wafer, potato salad, and a chocolate cake. How Southern is that? ;D I feel like it’s such an honor to be part of the volunteer group that it just feels doubly special to be rewarded for it.

I cannot wait for the summer when all the roses are in bloom. I plan to go back to Mrs. Burkholder’s grave and check on her rose bush as well.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your stories from you Dsy in the cemetery. Thank you for taking us along! I will be excited to see pics of Mrs. Burkhders rose! Best wishes!'

    1. Thanks, Teresa. I'll certainly document the roses later in the summer. I'd love to find a picture of Mrs. Buckholder if the historical society has one :D

  2. Sounds like a wonderful, friendly event, and the organiser sounds great!

    1. Thanks. It's fun to be around others who love cemeteries too.

  3. Good grief! I've been so behind in reading everyone's blogs! Sorry about that, I'm usually ... or at least HAVE BEEN, better at being involved in blogs.

    Anyway, I'm going to say it: I'm so envious that you are 1. gardening, 2. taking care of roses in a cemetery, 3. wandering about cemeteries that are more rural than urban. We don't have anything like this on Staten Island because the sites are maintained by the families who are usually alive and still around, or have a trust for the cemetery to take care of the sites. I definitely need to get my butt up to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for a walk about. I've never seen it in the spring or summer, if you can imagine! Sheeze.

    I'll have to live vicariously through you and your garden again this year. Plant some tomatoes and basil in my name, beautiful friend. AND HAPPY FRIEND ANNIVERSARY!!!! :) We met this time last year. SO MUCH LOVE.

    1. I know the feeling. I'm following so many blogs now that I had to stalk you yesterday just to be sure I hadn't missed one of your posts :D

      Happy Friend Anniversary! Has it only been a year? AND, has it been a year? Maybe we need to start planning another vacation!

      OMG, I just started a Cemetery Meet-Up group in Richmond and I'm shocked over how much interest it's received. I'm imagining a whole summer of cemetery events!

    2. Yes, it's been a year ... but feels like forever. :D It's nice, isn't it? We should start planning something! Maybe I can come down to DC in May or June and we can spend the day together? Perhaps on a Friday when classes are out for the summer?

      Cemetery Meet-up?!? Pfffttt ... rub it in why don't you! ;)

    3. All great possibilities... Or another trip somewhere :)

      Awww, not rubbing it in... Just excited and I knew you would appreciate that.

    4. I can't promise a trip this year -- the big job that I interviewed for at CAA is closing on 4/25. There might be quite a bit of traveling and a possible move in my future. Stay tuned.

      I know, I was only teasing. :)