Veteran Ron Rivard places a wreath against his brother Urbain’s gravestone. Dozens showed up to the Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery in Springvale to pay their respects at the Wreaths Across America event Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

Veteran Ron Rivard places a wreath against his brother Urbain’s gravestone. Dozens showed up to the Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery in Springvale to pay their respects at the Wreaths Across America event Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — The roads were slick and the weather inclement, but that didn’t stop dozens of people from making the trip to Southern Maine’s Veterans Cemetery in Springvale on Saturday to participate in the Wreaths Across America event.

More than 100 wreaths lay against veteran gravestones. Dozens of people showed up to the Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery in Springvale to pay their respects to veterans at the Wreaths Across America event Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

More than 100 wreaths lay against veteran gravestones. Dozens of people showed up to the Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery in Springvale to pay their respects to veterans at the Wreaths Across America event Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal Tribune

            On a day of at least 5 inches of snowfall, people gathered at locations around the cemetery to pay their respects to hundreds of deceased veterans by placing a wreath at the veteran’s tombstone. Given the heavy snowfall, the opening memorial ceremony was canceled due to various groups not being able to reach the cemetery due to the conditions. One event organizer, Fran Leclair, president of Rolling Thunder Chapter One, of Maine, said despite the stormy weather the wreath laying would not have been canceled.

Children play in the snow during the Wreaths Across America event in Springvale on Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal tribune

Children play in the snow during the Wreaths Across America event in Springvale on Saturday. RYDER SCHUMACHER/Journal tribune

            “We would have had honor guards here, a speaker, buglers, a flag folding ceremony; that all had to be canceled,” said Leclair. “But we couldn’t stop putting the wreaths out because this is all done the very same day and same time as all the other wreath laying ceremonies across the country.”

            Wreaths Across America, a tribute started in 1992 by Maine resident Morrill Worcester, has become a well known holiday tradition over the past decade for hundreds of cemeteries across the country and overseas, usually taking place on the same day.  

By noon people had gathered in the Southern Maine’s Veterans Cemetery’s lower section, as Leclair outlined the wreath laying process, and then asked everyone for a moment of silence “that was held nationwide.” This was followed by a word of prayer from Secretary of Southern Maine Veteran’s Cemetery Association Ron Rivard.

Rivard, a Korean War veteran who currently lives in Shapleigh with his wife, Rita, said each of his seven brothers were veterans, four having served during World War II, two between World War II and the Korean War, and Ron during the Korean War.

“I have a brother, Urbain Rivard, who’s interred here. My father has a monument on Memorial Walkway as well, he was a WWI veteran,” said Rivard. “We were all honored to serve our country.”

Yvan Landry of Arundel was also present to pay respects to those he served with. He placed a wreath on the gravesite of veteran Edward Townsend.

“This man used to be our chase vehicle operator for the Patriot Riders of America, he passed a few years back,” said Landry.

            With regards to the cold, snowy weather, many expressed how great it was seeing the many people who showed up for the event.

“We had a great turnout on a day like this,” said Leclair.

Within 20 minutes after the wreaths had been laid out for people to place, every tombstone was adorned with at least one wreath, coloring the grey and white landscape with spots of green and bright red.

“We weren’t at all expecting this many people, “ said Rita Rivard. “But the sight of this; it’s such a wonderful thing to see.”


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