VALLEY – On Memorial Day, more than 100 community members recognized the sacrifice of approximately 50 African American veterans buried at Old Evergreen Cemetery. Additionally, in East Brandywine Township, the Unknown Soldier has been recognized.
To mark the solemn feast, Chester County Commissioners, family and other grateful people placed American flags at the graves of Old Evergreen Cemetery of those who fought for their country in several wars.
The cemetery has recently undergone a major renovation after being largely neglected for decades. On Wednesday, May 26, the area was cleared of brush and the grass was carefully trimmed as a lasting tribute to those who fought for America.
When segregation was still significant in the United States, only African Americans, many of whom were from the local Hayti community, were buried. The cemetery filled up in the 1960s before the founding of the adjacent New Evergreen Cemetery extension.
Ownership has remained ambiguous over the decades, and the place has been abandoned and unattended except by a single family who have buried dead people there. Local volunteers have taken care of the cemetery for the past few years. The event showcased the hard and enduring work of many volunteers.
Chris Pielli, veteran and recorder of Chester County, led the campaign to restore the cemetery.
Pielli spoke on a balmy spring day as rain loomed.
“Behind me is a cemetery that contains the remains of fellow Americans who have been isolated and marginalized,” Pielli said. “They now rest in a place that has been almost forgotten, except through the efforts of a few citizens who have refused to let their memories fade.
“They served a country they loved, a country that didn’t always love them back. And yet, despite the wrongs they have faced, those here have never abandoned America.
Former fighter and U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th Arrondissement, Easttown, spoke about her father who, like those who placed flags at graves on Wednesday, planted flags in the family’s driveway to mark holidays.
“Remember those who came before us and remember their sacrifices,” Houlahan said. “We are all patriots… we are all Americans.”
Commissioner Michelle Kichline discussed the deep historical roots of the cemetery.
Commissioner Marian Moskowitz noted that veterans of several wars are buried at Evergreen Cemetery.
“The courage displayed by these men played a very important role during the civil war – they really fought for freedom,” she said.
State Representative Dan Williams, D-74th Dist., From Sadsbury, said the headstones marked veterans who “fought for the freedom they did not enjoy themselves.”
Patrice Proctor, chairman of the Valley Township Oversight Board, and volunteer janitor Teresa Graham said relatives were buried in the cemetery.
Graham worked to restore the sacred property.
“I felt the spirit of my grandfather,” she says. “You can’t leave it like this, you have to make it work.
“I must honor them for this sacrifice they made.”
The laying of the crown was performed by Prothonotaries Debbie Bookman and Graham. VFW Post 287 Chaplain Bob McGonigle performed Taps and the national anthem was presented by Kimberly Bydlon.
The color presentation was made by JROTC PA-771 Air Force high school cadets from the Coatesville area, along with Lt. Col. James E. Turnbull and MSGT Christopher J. Sidoli.
A memorial was laid this week at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Never Forget Garden in Bondsville Park, East Brandywine Township.
A Never Forget Garden is a memorial not only to unknown soldiers, but also a living tribute to all U.S. military service veterans and their families. It is a place to honor their sacrifice and service to defend and preserve America in the past, present, and for future generations.
East Brandywine Souvenir is the first, and so far the only, Never Forget Garden in County Chester. Living there in the beautiful Never Forget Garden are the purple viola, tulip, daisy, primrose, poppy, and don’t forget flowers, all of which have symbolic meaning. Oaks and silver birches, symbols of strength and hope, grow nearby.
On Remembrance Day in 1958, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officiated at the burial of unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War.
This year, 2021, marks the 100th anniversary of the burial on November 11, 1921, of the Unknown Soldier of World War I, chaired by President Warren G. Harding. Among the many centennial commemorative activities and recognitions planned by the Department of Defense and Arlington National Cemetery, and the Society of Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there is a Never Forget Garden encouraged by the Society.