May 29, 2011


Under the direction of Jake Webb, right, John Noe kneels to read the inscription on a gravestone while Devon Sullivan and Josh Noe look on. The Boy Scouts were placing flags on the gravestones of veterans at Forest Hills Cemetery in Derry on Saturday, May 28.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Decoration Day used to be a fixed holiday, May 30, so named in 1868 as a day to break from the routine of life and honor our Civil War dead by decorating their graves.Much about how we celebrate this day has changed over time, including its name, said Dot Goldman, a volunteer caretaker of Forest Hills Cemetery.
Twin brothers John and Josh Noe discover
the gravestone of a veteran who died
eight days after they were born in August 1999.
A pair of Boy Scouts search for the graves of veterans.
She would go so far as to say that modern Memorial Day has lost its meaning.
“It’s always been important to me and my family. We always went and decorated graves together on Memorial Day, something that’s just not done so much anymore by families,” said Goldman.
 “Go to any of the town’s Memorial Day services. It’s just a three-day weekend when people have fun. Maybe they have a moment of silence. Unfortunately, most people don’t take time to honor or respect those who’ve served. It’s all been lost, and that’s sad.” 

Goldman has a particular passion for honoring the dead. For years, she has volunteered her services at the town cemetery. Sunday at 3 p.m. she will be 

there, along with members of the Salem-
based Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, to commemorate one of Derry’s own, Gen. George Thom, who served in the Civil War. 
The public is welcome 
Although all of General Thom’s direct descendants have died, Goldman said the town’s historical society found a distant relative, Robert Marsh of Bethesda, Md., who grew up summering in New Hampshire.
His daughter, Henrietta Luneau of Hopkinton, is a Sullivan County court judge. 
“I won’t be able to make Sunday’s ceremony, but I am proud of our family’s Derry roots. I’m definitely going to visit General Thom’s grave site this summer,” said Marsh, 82. 
Thom was his grandfather’s uncle. “Until they contacted me, I had no idea he was buried in Derry. I’m proud of his contribution to history and to this country. It means a lot that he is still remembered.” 
Goldman believes that remembering the roots of this holiday is the best way to perpetuate pure patriotism. 
That’s why, for as long as she has dedicated herself to the upkeep of Forest Hills, she has been inviting and recruiting various community groups to join her, not only in the painstaking process of restoring old and damaged stones but also in decorating graves each Memorial Day. That’s what brought a small brigade of ground troops to the cemetery Saturday, with armloads of U.S. flags — many in uniform — Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venture Scouts. Others, including members of the local Veterans of Foreign War Ladies Auxiliary, joined the troops on the annual scavenger hunt to find the graves of war veterans. Brothers Colin and Ian Dudgeon of Boy Scout Troop 98 had done this before. 
“Everyone helps to contribute to remembering Memorial Day in their own say. Families of those who died go to vigils and assemblies; this is our way,” said Colin Dudgeon. 
They walked together along one of the pathways cutting through the cemetery. It was Ian’s turn to plant a flag. 
“I like going around and seeing that New Hampshire residents have served in the different branches of the military,” said Ian Dudgeon, finding a military marking and poking the wooden flag post into the dirt. 
Fellow Scout Michael Agresti said he just learned in school that Memorial Day used to be Decoration Day, during Trivia Friday at Gilbert Hood Middle School. 
“One of the questions was: When did Memorial Day start, and what was it called? I had no idea, and nobody else knew the answer in my grade,” he said. “Now I know. Being here today, to do this for someone who protected our freedom, feels good to me; it feels right.” 
Besides the volunteers recruited to decorate the cemetery in advance of Memorial Day, Angel and Ray Fontaine were there on a family Memorial Day outing with 5-year-old son Samuel. They strolled together with a small collection of flags, looking for a grave in need of decoration. 
As they walked, Samuel stretched his right arm into the breeze, and the fabric of the small flag clenched in his fist fluttered in the breeze. 
“Don’t let it touch the ground,” said his father, providing just one of many important lessons to be learned as they made their way toward a small granite headstone in the grass. 
“OK, right there,” said his mother, directing him to the right spot. 
“I’m planting a flag,” said the boy, using two hands to poke Old Glory into the dirt. “Yippee. America the beautiful.” 

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