Morrill Worcester was a 12-year-old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, especially Arlington National Cemetery that made an indelible impression on him. These were the graves of veterans that made the peace and freedom we have in America possible. In 1992, when Morrill’s company, Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, had a surplus of fresh evergreen wreaths for the holidays, he remembered his experience at Arlington Cemetery.
Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving few visitors each passing year. The 5000 surplus wreaths were all transported, given hand tied red bows, and laid on the graves in Arlington by volunteers, including a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Surplus wreaths were placed quietly for years, then a picture of the wreaths in Arlington appeared on the internet in 2005. Thousands of requests poured in to help with wreaths at Arlington and to adorn the graves of veterans at other national, state, and local cemeteries. In 2007, the non-profit, Wreaths Across America was formed. The mission of the group is simple: Remember, Honor, Teach. Each year on the second or third Saturday of December at noon at cemeteries across the United States, volunteers place a fresh wreath with a red ribbon at the grave of a U.S. veteran.
At noon on a very rainy, cold Saturday, December 18, dozens of volunteers waited at the North Royalton Cemetery to remember those that served, to honor their service, and to teach others that their service has protected the United States since before it was a nation. The ceremony began with a moment of silence, then presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop 218. Representatives placed wreaths for POW- MIA, and the military branches of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and Space Force, as well as Blue and Gold Star families and first responders. Remarks by City Council President Paul Marnecheck, Wally Ohler, North Royalton Veterans Affairs Liaison, and a Veteran, thanking all the people who came out to participate in this national recognition of Veterans who served, came home, and lived the lives they fought to protect. The City was presented with a flag that flew on a mission in Afghanistan. Volunteers were instructed, as they were across the nation, to say the name of the veteran aloud as they placed the wreath recognizing them as people who protected our nation.
Ken Dobay, a navy veteran, a retired ATT employee, and a member of the ATT Pioneers, said that “there are 300 graves of veterans buried in North Royalton Cemetery. Volunteers, like myself, came out in early December to mark their graves with orange ATT flags.” Paul Marnecheck commented that, “People don’t realize that we have veterans whose service spans over two centuries from John Shepherd who fought with George Washington in the French and Indian War as well as the Revolution to Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Boskovitch part of the 25th Marine Reserve from Brook Park that lost 48 men in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.” The rain and the water-logged ground made the work of the volunteers more somber as they spread out placing the wreaths by the graves. Kerra Preseren came with her grandpa and aunt to help; she noted that Eugene L. Ward, the veteran whose grave she was placing the wreath, probably served in WWII or Korea judging from the birth date.
We, the people, would like to thank Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz, Jason Swim who is the Recreation Director and the Cemetery Sexton, ATT Pioneer volunteers who pre-mark the graves of men and women who served in the armed forces. Through the efforts of AT&T Pioneer volunteers of the Northeast Council, money was raised for the wreaths, major contributions came from Busch Funeral and Crematory Services (30 wreaths), Martin’s Auto Body and Collision (20 wreaths), The Harrod Family and South Cuyahoga Sportsmen’s Assoc. and Donald Grassi (10 wreaths), and dozens of smaller individual contributions that are just as much appreciated. Rock Solid Transport, LLC. provided the transportation for the wreaths. We would like to thank Kevin Lynch, Courtney Abbe, who had the wreaths set out in organized areas for the volunteers, Boy Scout troop 218, and all the people who came out to honor the veterans. If you are interested in sponsoring a wreath for December 2022, use the website and click on donate.

Contributing Writer