By Matt de Simone
As Memorial Day approaches on Monday, Buchanan is once again the place for remembrance activities.
This Saturday morning, Sirens & Salutes, a local nonprofit organization that honors and memorializes veterans and first responders, along with community members will place flags on veterans’ graves at Fairview Cemetery located at 36 Fairview Street (State Route T-1304) in Buchanan.
The annual Memorial Day service sponsored by Buchanan American Legion Post 93 begins at 11 a.m. this Monday followed by a “Memorial Day Dinner” at Solomon’s Mission ($12 per plate) immediately following the service. Food will be provided by Aaron’s Smokehouse BBQ.
Later that day, a memorial marker dedication for World War II veteran Russell Smith will take place at Lithia Baptist Church at 2 p.m. Additionally, the 1967 classic “The Dirty Dozen” will be presented at the Buchanan Theatre for free all Memorial Day weekend sponsored by Sirens & Salutes. Flag pickup at Fairview takes place at 10 a.m. on May 30.
Fairview has great meaning to the Buchanan community. The nearly 170-year-old memorial park has been the site for a service on Memorial Day for many, many years. There, the tradition continued by citizens placing flags at veterans’ gravestones that, for many years, has been carried out by Buchanan’s American Legion Post 93.
Fairview contains veterans’ graves dating back to the Spanish-American War and Civil War. Currently, there are approximately 500 graves of veterans who served in the United States military, according to Bill Price, co-founder of Sirens & Salutes.
“I know I’m proud to be able to do what I can up there to make sure they have a good resting place and that (veterans) are remembered on Memorial Day and they’re remembered at Christmas time,” Price said in a recent interview. “As a community, I think we should be proud of what the cemetery means to everybody.”
The cemetery is privately held, meaning that the Town of Buchanan neither owns nor maintains the property. Over the past couple of years, property maintenance has become a concern for the Fairview Cemetery Association. For over 80 years, the association was initially created to address the issue of the property’s upkeep. The only duty of the association is raising funds for maintaining the cemetery’s beautification and individual plots. Most of the money for upkeep is raised through donations and partly through the annual Memorial Day Dinner.
“There are two distinct entities that take care of the cemetery,” Fairview Cemetery Association Board of Trustees Chairman Ray Sloan stated in a recent email. “The Cemetery Association takes care of the mowing, weed-eating, and fundraising. The trustees take care of the capital improvements, selling and marking the graves to be dug and such.”
The cemetery recently lost its primary groundskeeper and has yet to find a replacement. Recently, the association hired a professional landscaping company to maintain the property’s upkeep. Due to the expense in constant maintenance during the growing/warm weather seasons, donations are needed now more than ever.
“Fairview Cemetery is an important historic landmark for the community reaching all the way back to the 1850s,” Buchanan Community Development/Events Manager Harry Gleason said in a recent email. “(Fairview) Cemetery is a favorite place for residents and visitors to search for their family roots, a quiet place of contemplation and a scenic place to stroll and enjoy the beautiful views of the town. The care of the cemetery has been a longstanding call for local citizens and families to gather each year for the Memorial Service, stroll amongst the headstones to lay peonies and gather for a community meal to raise money for the cemetery’s upkeep.”
Every dollar donated goes toward paying for the upkeep of the cemetery and any incidental costs such as mailings or making copies. No one in the association is paid anything for the work they do for the group, other than the groundskeeper.
In Roanoke City, two long-standing cemeteries, Fair View on Melrose Avenue and Cedar Lawn Memorial Park on Cove Road, are currently in flux. The company (FV Cemetery Co.) in charge of both locations’ management recently ceased operations. Due to this, the company’s board of directors has planned to turn over the cemetery’s management to the City of Roanoke to decide both locations future.
Price doesn’t want to see the same thing happen to Fairview in Buchanan.
“I definitely don’t want to see that happen to Fairview,” Price noted. “I think there are people out there who think that the town (of Buchanan) maintains (the cemetery) or that the town budgets to maintain the cemetery. They don’t. They have zero to do with the cemetery.”
Price and the Fairview Cemetery Association, like many others, hope that Fairview Cemetery continues to be the beautiful, hillside memorial that’s brought together so many people during such an important weekend of observance.
Donations may be sent to the Fairview Cemetery Association either by mail (Fairview Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 533, Buchanan, 24066), through its PayPal account (firstname.lastname@example.org), at in-person events like the Memorial Day Dinner at Solomon’s Mission, or on the association’s website: fairviewcemeteryassociation.org where visitors can find information about the cemetery’s history, news and events, photos, a donation button, contacts, and more.
Memorial Day service activities include:
- David Austin will be performing the national anthem and other musical selections
- Botetourt Sheriff’s Department will present the Colors
- Charles LeFew will play “Taps”
- Bill Price of Sirens and Salutes and his son, Keegan, will play “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes
- Rena Worthen, U.S. Navy veteran, author and genealogist, will be the keynote speaker