It’s that time again for me and my extended family…it is Cemetery Clean-up Day. That time of the year on the first Saturday of May, my family and I will drop everything we may have planned and make the trek Northward. It is time to rake and clean the family cemetery. Yep every year since the early1900’s (or earlier), my family has reported for duty at Bearhead Union Cemetery. When I was a kid, it was my grandparents,parents, aunts and uncles who would rake the pine needles off the grave sites for a few hours. And I am sure back then the cemetery was much smaller than it has expanded to today, as now most of those generations have been laid to rest beneath the pines at Bearhead. When we were kids my cousins and my brothers and I would run around back and forth playing until it was time for the potluck lunch. But for the past several decades, it has been our generation and those after us that are doing the raking.
After all the raking there is a major potluck lunch that follows, along with the Cemetery annual meeting. Each year, we will get a letter from the president and president’s husband, Cookie and Skip, that lets everyone know the day is set aside and the clean-up, potluck and annual meeting will be happening. The only year it has been canceled was 2020 due to Covid. Not a bad track record for over 100 years of the cemetery’s existence.
The potluck consists of grilled burgers, brats and hot dogs that Cookie and Skip set up, and then all the sides of salads, chips, and desserts imaginable. There is always an ample supply of food for the 80-to over 100 people that show up. We all get our plates of food and sit under the gigantic white pines and then the meeting will begin. It is run pretty formally in a not so formal way. Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are followed and the minutes from last year are read and agreed upon and voted on. The new order of business is presented and this usually involves voting for new Board Members.
While there are several Board Members, with 2 or 3 year terms, I don’t think there has ever been a time when there was a need for Board Members to do anything. Cookie and Skip and a couple of others that live near the cemetery have kept it running and have kept the finances in really good order. So every year, whether they want the job or not, they are voted back into the role of President and Husband of the President. It is the Up North way and it has worked for many generations.
While cemeteries, for many, are a sad place to be, I find much peace and happiness at Bearhead. Yes, many of my family is buried there, and sometimes there may be a new family member that made the trek before the first Saturday in May to go rest under the pines. But each year when we can all come together and honor and celebrate those lives that have gone before us, I always cherish that time together.