A Quick-and-Dirty Veteran’s Memorial Review
BY P.J. ERBLEY
In the spring of 1993, the writer learned of several cemetery stones strewn in undergrowth behind a West Main Street home. The owners at the time, Tom and Roseanne Judd, were quite cooperative in allowing an investigation, both on site and of their property records, to ascertain the reason for this situation. Was it a cemetery, a family burial ground, a village dump?
It was determined that cemetery monument maker, Dennis Harris (1849-1916), owned the property at one time, even displaying examples of his work in his back yard. After he died, his widow stayed in the home many years and the tombstones remained in place. A niece, the late Dorothy Snoddy, (later Mrs. David Maloney), recalled playing among the hefty stones as a child.
One stylized family marker, laying sideways in the mire, carried the family name “Wilkinson.” Using the chiseled necrology on its face, available sources were consulted, especially the old Honeoye Falls Times. Deaths in that family unfortunately, outpaced the amount of space on the marker.
Residing next door to the Harris tombstone operation, possibly allowed for a sweet deal on a replacement. Though it seemed a simple matter to locate the updated version, it wasn’t in the local burial grounds… ‘twas in a neighboring town.
Charles “Charlie” Wilkinson, who died tragically in young manhood, was among the most popular residents of Honeoye Falls. In 1890, his parents had moved the family from West Henrietta to take over management of the Wilcox Hotel (the Masonic Temple since 1920).
Three years later, Charlie was thrown from a wagon and run over by it… prompting a slow agonizing death. It was a huge blow to his parents. The shock was so great on his father, James, as to cause his death a year later. Then, in 1902, unrelenting grief also took his mother, Elizabeth.
The tragic turn of events called for a larger family cemetery stone and Harris was called upon to replace it. Long story short, the replacement was created and placed in Pine Hill Cemetery, Rush, near where the family formerly resided.
The original, with few recycling options, was hauled back to the Harris lot and displayed among other stones as a showroom piece. Subsequently, later owners of the property (probably Mr. & Mrs. Lyle Kreiger, the village postmaster and community historian, respectively) had the dozen or so bulky stones pushed to the back of the lot, just above the race to the former lower mill (now The Rabbit Room).
Decades later, in 1993, the Judds tipped-off a local native interested in cemeteries. Having wandered the local grounds as a kid, and researching and composing a college Master’s Thesis on western Kentucky cemeteries, the man, Mr. News & Notes, was more than intrigued. And thus, the saga begins…
JUST THE FACTS
1) August 2006; Following a quiet period after the 1993 discovery (o.k. the writer is a procrastinator), the Judds allowed more determined access that zeroed in on two key stones (a top and matching base, each weighing a ton) lying akimbo in the brush above the barely discernible old mill race;
2) Sept-Oct 2006; then a tip of the hat to McGee Monuments in Rochester, for going along with what (to them) seemed a dubious plan; retrieving and hauling the markers (made of pre-cast concrete) to their Caledonia shop; then power-washing both units of dirt and green slime several times over; and culminated by ordering and attaching brass plaques (“Honeoye Falls Cemetery” and “Community History”) to fit into the stylized inscription frames engraved in the stone; and all evidence that it was a family marker was obscured;
3) December 2006; and kudos to the HF Village Board, for also going along with the scheme AND allowing the cemetery superintendent to select a site which, since that section opened in 1947, was an area where HF Cemetery Association Rules forbade upright markers; subsequently, McGee placed the cleaned and plaque-adorned stones at the chosen location; and finally, lacking a bottle of champagne to launch the innovative feature, the “HISTORY MONUMENT” quietly became an integral feature of Honeoye Falls Cemetery;
4) Spring 2007; the story doesn’t end there, however, thanks to Laurene Hofmann, who has spearheaded the annual placement of a flower bed by volunteers (together with two benches provided by the village) around the History Monument;
5) Fall 2007; soon after, Eagle Scout candidate Kevin Fisher, stepped forward to manage the design and installation of a walkway from the Main Street sidewalk to and around the History Monument; a project he completed in time to be selected as one of the best Otetiana Eagle Projects of the year;
6) December 2010; the fun really began, when American Legion members, Wayne Menz and Jack Prinzing, brought forth an idea to the HF Village Board for designing and fundraising for a Veterans Memorial (one that would replace the Flag Pole Memorial, that had been dedicated in the center of the Chase Grounds in 1950); that project was approved and initiated straightaway;
7) Spring 2012; after considerable planning, behind the efforts of the HF DPW (straw-bossed by Greg Emerson), the History Monument became the locus from which the Veterans Memorial began taking shape; over the course of a few weeks, the once-mundane patch of grass was transformed into a magical place; along with incorporating the History Monument in its design, visitors found a circular sidewalk, an array of commemorative bricks (numbering almost 300 to date), and a bracing wall holding erect the poles and flags honoring each branch of service;
8) May 27th, 2013; to culminate the project, coinciding with the fact that it was Memorial Day, the Veterans Memorial was dedicated with great fanfare by organizations within the Village of Honeoye Falls and the Town of Mendon, especially Falls Post #664 American Legion;
9) May 15th, 2023; also, in a response to News’ query about happenings at the Veterans Memorial over the past decade, Legionnaire Myron Lemperle provided an apt summary of what has transpired over the last decade:
The Veterans Memorial is a special place. It has become the location Post 664 has used for so many events. The residents of the town and village gather there for the annual Memorial Day ceremony. It is the primary place we choose to remember the men and women of the armed services that gave their all for their country. Especially memorable was when many gathered at the Veterans Memorial on 9-11-21, to remember the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on America. Needless to say, over the years the Legion (and the public) has taken many photographs at the Memorial… preserving memories for a lifetime.
10) May 27th, 2023; this short retrospective cannot be closed without a special thanks to Honeoye Falls’ ever-agreeable Village Administrator, Brian Anderson, who kindly assisted the writer with comments, contacts and photos, facilitating a proper toast to those who made this day possible… the 10th Anniversary of Falls Post #664’s Veterans Memorial.
(It has also been 17 years since the History Monument was placed, without fanfare, in what was formerly a benign corner of Honeoye Falls Cemetery… but that move nudged us down the path toward, as late radio host Paul Harvey put it, “…the rest of the story.”)