Families also honor their own on Memorial Day

Karen Smith, left, and Norma Vane, tend to a family  grave marker at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Bremerton on Memorial Day. - Leslie Kelly
Karen Smith, left, and Norma Vane, tend to a family grave marker at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Bremerton on Memorial Day.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

Karen Smith and Norma Vane spent Memorial Day the same way they have for years -- getting their hands dirty.

The two sisters, who grew up in Seabeck, were at Forest Lawn Cemetery early Monday to trim up around the grave markers of family members who have passed.

"We have them scattered around in this area," said Vane. "Our mother, and father, our brother and two sets of grandparents. We just come out for the day and make sure we tend to each grave."

With them was their cousin, Evelyn Hagen, of Lynden, who was busy creating bouquets for each grave from the flowers they'd brought from their garden.

"Actually, these flowers are from my mother's yard," said Smith, who now cares for the family homestead in Seabeck.

Smith and Vane's mother Laura (Hagen) Westeren lived to be 101 and just passed away two years come this August, the sister said.

"Our mother came with us to the cemetery to do this every year up until she passed," said Vane. "When she got to old to walk, she'd sit in the car and watch us work."

Each of them had garden tools and they were busy scraping the grass and weeds away from the headstones where they sat.

While many celebrate Memorial Day by attending services to honor fallen veterans, the sisters have come to see Memorial Day as a time to also remember those loved ones of their own who have gone before them.

Like their mother.

"She was something," said Vane.

"She has a great sense of humor," said Hagen. "Especially on April Fool's Day."

And she loved holidays.

"She would celebrate every single one," Smith said. "It didn't matter if it was Valentine's Day or Lincoln's Birthday, we have decorations and good food."

"Celebrating's always been in the Hagen blood," Vane said.

The sisters say as long as they are able, they'll keep up the tradition of tending to family graves on Memorial Day. They thought it would take most of the day to tidy up their family grave sites.

"It's a real honor and a treat for us," said Vane. "Just to celebrate each one of the family members we've lost and to think about them and talk about the memories."

And around them were others who, like the sisters, were caring for the resting places of their loved ones.

Earlier in the day, there was a memorial service to honor veterans who were laid to rest at Forest Lawn. U.S. Marines from Bangor, part of Security Force Beta, stood by.

"It's our honor and our duty to be here," said Corporal Melvin Ragudo, of Sacramento, Calif. "These veterans gave their lives for us. We wouldn't be here without them."


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