Bundled up tightly, defying high winds blowing in their faces, a group of Langleyites took to shuffles, rakes and garden clippers to cleanup the final resting place of those who came before them.
The Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery held its annual cemetery cleanup party Saturday.
“We raked and cleaned up the entire old part of the cemetery, and a little bit of the new section,” said Cary Peterson, who led the work party. “A lot of work. Very successful day, despite the wild winds.”
It was stormy indeed. The old trees of the cemetery rocked violently in the winds, as volunteers cleared overgrown brush and fallen down branches.
Peterson said it was one of the biggest work parties in recent history with close to 20 helpers throughout the morning.
Several truck loads of debris and yard waste was hauled away.
The youngest helper was Siris Holland Thompson. The toddler helped with a rake nearly twice his size.
After three hours of hard work the group warmed up with hot tea and snacks as the gathered around the tailgate of a truck.
The Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery was started in 1996 to help care for the cemetery and the group has held the annual spring work parties since then.
“We have to do it every year because of the winter downfall from the trees needs to be cleaned up so the cemetery looks good, and also for ease of mowing,” Peterson said.
This year, the Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery partnered with the Langley Main Street Association and the South Whidbey Historical Society.
For the community, the cemetery has become more than just the final resting place of many early South Whidbey families.
“Our cemetery has not only historical value, but it is also a healing place of quiet and solace for the loved ones of people buried there, and also a destination for people seeking a beautiful place to walk and enjoy,” Peterson said.
Bob Waterman of the Historical Society shared some of his history expertise as the volunteers took care of the graves of many of Langley’s forefathers and foremothers.
Langley Woodmen Cemetery is the oldest cemetery on South Whidbey, established in 1902 by the Woodmen’s Lodge and maintained by them until the City of Langley incorporated as a municipality.
In September 1913, the Woodmen donated the cemetery to the town.
By the early 1990s, the cemetery had fallen on hard times. Areas were overgrown with wild berries; the city was able to provide only minimal maintenance. The original section of the cemetery was almost full, and the city did not have funds to survey and plot out the new section.
Seeing no other way out, the city decided to sell the cemetery in late 1995.
Faced with this possibility, a group of citizens came together to work with the city in a way that allowed the historic graveyard to remain in public ownership.
Volunteers raised funds, incorporated as the Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery.
Since then volunteers donated hundreds of hours for mowing, weeding, and making the cemetery look like the pleasant place to walk, to picnic, reflect and to honor loved ones.
Among the helpers were Waterman, Peterson, Jim Pugh, Bernita Sanstad, James Enslow, Janet and Frank Ploof, Claudia Ramsey, Jim Sundberg, Joan Raymond, Dominique Emerson, Mary Ann Mansfield, Jim Ellison, Dorothy Anderson, Caleb Thompson, Kerry Holland and Siris Holland Thompson.
The next work party is set for before Memorial Day.
“The Friends of the Langley Woodmen Cemetery is all volunteers and we are always looking for more volunteers to help us care for the cemetery,” Peterson said.