Kennesaw Cemetery Decorating Day Honors Lost Loved Ones

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By Rebecca Gaunt

Residents came armed with scrub brushes and buckets for the 16th annual Decorating Day at the Kennesaw City Cemetery on Saturday.

Kennesaw-born Robert Ellison has been a part of Decoration Day since its inception. On this cold morning, his sister Nell and his wife Betty worked with him to beautify the place and place bouquets of flowers on the headstones.

Members of the Ellison family have participated since the beginning of Decoration Day. (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

Ellison’s family has a long history in Kennesaw. The house where he was born is now the Hooters restaurant. His grandparents once owned the land where McCollum Airport now stands.

“My grandfather’s parents are buried here,” he said. “Jiles Road was dirty when I was in high school. I rode horses and knew everyone here. I’ll be honest with you – I never thought I’d ever see a traffic light in Kennesaw when I was as a child. It was the furthest thing from my mind. You can imagine if my dad came back, I can just see how he would feel because he was driving a Model T.”

High school girls Agnes Yung, Sabina Tong and Jamane Tong volunteered for the cleanup (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

The dedication ceremony was an opportunity for residents to pay tribute to their loved ones. Those who had planted trees in their memories shared stories and placed roses on the trees in their honor.

Cemetery Preservation Commission member MaryHelyn Hagin also recognized Rod Bowman for his hard work in the design and maintenance of the cemetery. Bowman started with the public works department in 2010, and with his upcoming retirement Hagin said he would be hard to replace.

Former Kennesaw City Council member David Blinkhorn helped Rod Bowman prepare lunch (photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

Hagin was joined by her son Walter to honor her husband Allen Hagin, who died in 2019. Her sister-in-law Donna Smathers was also on hand to honor her husband and Hagin’s brother, Kenneth Smathers, who died last year.

Judi Burrell also planted a tree in honor of her husband Dale Burrell whom she lost in April 2020. In October 2020, the public works complex was renamed for him.

The cemetery is located at the southwest end of downtown, on a former training ground for Civil War volunteers. Year-old Lucius Summers was the first to be buried there in 1863. Local historian by Andrew Bramlett a tour of the cemetery with historical information about many inhabitants is available on the Cemetery Preservation Foundation website.

Judi Burrell placed a rose on the tree planted in memory of her husband Dale Burrell (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

“Organized by the Cemetery Preservation Commission, Decorating Day is our annual event to clean up and beautify the Kennesaw City Cemetery. The purpose of Decorating Day is to honor those who reside in the cemetery by working together as a community to clean up the headstones, grave sites and grounds,” said Deputy City Clerk James Friedrich.

Anyone interested in honoring a loved one and supporting the cemetery by planting a tree or placing a name on the memorial wall should contact the city clerk’s office at 770-424-8274 or [email protected]

Many graves received bouquets of brightly colored flowers (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)
Donna Smathers dedicated a tree in memory of her husband Kenneth with her sister MaryHelyn Hagin by her side (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)
Mickey Bozeman came armed with soapy water (Photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

Rebecca Gaunt holds a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats and a dog. In her spare time, she likes to read, binge on Netflix and travel.

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