Boalsburg Celebrates 150th Memorial Day
One-hundred and fifty years ago three women walked to the Boalsburg Cemetery where they placed flowers on the graves of loved ones who were killed during the Civil War.
The women - Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Meyer – decided they would return the following year and decorate all of the graves of the other fallen soldiers in the cemetery, and the community joined them.
That one act of kindness is believed to have started Memorial Day, which will be celebrated in Boalsburg, for the 150th time on Monday, May 26.
Harris Township Manager Amy Farkas says at the time Harris Township was much larger, stretching to Penn State's campus with 2,000 residents. She says roughly one out of three residents were serving in the war.
"I think certainly for us we're pretty proud of the fact that our community is sort of where Memorial Day started, and not in a boastful way, but because the importance of the holiday is remembering our veterans," Farkas says. "To have that tradition survive 150 years ... it's so important to the heart of our community and who our community is."
Chris Lee, co-founder and president of the Boalsburg Village Conservancy, is the seventh generation of the Boal family. He has been attending the Memorial Day service since the 1960's.
"The fact it has been 150 years indicates the depth and longevity and heritage in Boalsburg," Lee says.
Additionally, Lee says Boalsburg is a historic village which today serves as a model for planners trying to create community with a traditional neighborhood design that is compact, pedestrian friendly and includes a central public space with a mixture of uses and incomes.
"The combination of those elements contributes to a sense of community," says Lee.
The recent vandalism at the historic Boalsburg Cemetery just weeks before Memorial Day was disappointing for event organizers. Vandals knocked over at least 51 headstones sometime overnight May 3. Some of the grave markers date back to the Civil War. A few of them were snapped in half and broken beyond repair.
"I was shocked and I went and viewed it and immediately spread the word so we could fix it back up," Lee says.
The act goes against the very purpose of Memorial Day, Lee says.
"Memorial Day brings us together as a community to appreciate those who sacrificed to put us where we are now and to inspire people, particularly young people, to care about the community and care about the future," Lee says.
The Boalsburg Village Conservancy organizes a memorial service for 6 p.m. Memorial Day, with a procession that starts at 5:45 p.m. at the intersections of Main and Church streets, also known as the "diamond." The service is held at the end of Church Street at the cemetery.
Dan Barker, who is in charge of this year's service, has been participating in the Memorial Day event for more than 25 years.
"Historically, it's one of those unrivaled stories and then, from a pure patriotic thought process, it's a phenomenal event that happened to occur in this tiny little town in central Pennsylvania and it's an opportunity to annually show appreciation for those folks who gave their lives for our country," says Barker. "It's one of those things that gets you deep down inside. You almost feel compelled, when you think about the event and what it stands for, to be part of it."
View a schedule of events HERE.