ARLINGTON MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY
6202 Charles Street
Rockford, Illinois 61108
The year was 1927. Calvin Coolidge was serving as the 30th President of the United States. John Dewey and Sigmund Freud were notable and respectable, philosophical personages, while Sinclair Lewis had just completed his masterpiece novel, Elmer Gantry, and Upton Sinclair was making fame with his best-seller, Oil. The first ‘talkie’ motion picture, The Jazz Singer, was capturing the attention of Americans from coast to coast, while songs like, Bye, Bye, Blackbird and Blue Room led the musical hits of the day, Medical researchers such as George Whipple and others were desperately seeking cures for tuberculosis, anemia, dementia, malaria and dozens of other demon-diseases. The St. Louis Cardinals had won the world series by defeating New York, and Charles Lindberg had flown non-stop from New York to Paris in 33.5 hours. The Harlem Globetrotters embellished basketball and Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs.
During that same year— here in Rockford, Illinois, a group of prominent citizens founded what was known as ARLINGTON MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY. The far east side location, now 6202 Charles St., was well out of town and located on a 78 acre farm. It was decided by those founding fathers that 30 acres of restful and beautiful rolling meadows were to be developed into lots, winding roads, and wooded (especially wooded) burial sites.
It was decreed from the beginning, that this new and wonderful Arlington Memorial Park Cemetery was intended to be a final place of interment not only for the notable and/or prestigious inhabitants of Rockford and the surrounding areas, but for all persons whatever their social, economic, or ethnic status. Among many of the first persons to buy lots and promote the Arlington Cemetery were community factory workers, the backbone of early Rockford’s industrial contributors.
The next sixty years spelled r-e-s-p-e-c-t for the Arlington Memorial Park Cemetery, for by 1987, 6000 persons had already placed their loved ones to rest in those Elysian fields. Families were larger in those days, and typical family lots contained between 12-24 individual burial spaces. Even so, there were still another 7,000 spaces available from the original 40 developed acres, with an additional 16 acres available for expansion.
A SPECIAL TIME OF REMEMBRANCE
Every year, Arlington holds special services for Memorial Day. Thus far the members of Lincoln Middle School Orchestra have provided a selection of patriotic music, while community leaders such as Mayor Doug Scott, and Alderman Dan Conness have delivered eulogies and accolades. This year we plan to have the Great Lakes United States Navy color guard provide a close-order drill and present the colors. Our ceremony is always impressive and provides a marvelous opportunity to pay respects to those who gave their lives so that freedom might reign.
Originally, Memorial Day honored the war dead of the Civil War, however it is now a day set aside (by law) to honor any and all American servicemen who sacrificed their lives for their country. Across our nation, flags, speeches, flowers, and parades—school children and Scouts pay homage.
No one knows for sure the exact day or place when Memorial Day was first observed, and few know that it didn’t become a national holiday until 1971. A second observance is found in the words, Decoration Day, for those persons who wish to partake of the same day to observe in kindly remembrance the loss of any or all loved ones—and consider this special day to be the rightful time to honor the deceased of their families by placing flowers on their graves.
Arlington will offer American flags for donations to offset the cost of the flags at our gates during the Memorial Day weekend. Pre-ceremonial music will begin at 11:00 A.M. on Memorial Day with full services to be held from 11:30-12:00. The public is invited to attend.
OF EDUCATION INTEREST TO ALL
The actual history of cemeteries is of unique interest to those who are curious as to origins. The very first cemeteries that can be certified, belonged to the Neanderthals— anywhere from 20,000 to maybe even 70,000 years ago. Even though such burials might have been unceremonial (we don’t know for sure) the Neanderthals are believed to be among the very first of our human species to bury their dead.
`It is known, that there are sites where flowers and other personal effects were a part of the Neanderthal interment. In many such sites, the bodies were positioned so as to face the east (sunrise). It is not known, however, if the Neanderthals conceived a notion of eternal existence.
Some ancient burial sites were often referred to as Cities of the Dead. Complex walls and architectural landscaping was often part of the mysterious-cryptic-designs that left no doubt as to the mourning, the anguish, the bereavement and lamenting that those still living felt for their departed ones.
Through the centuries, burials varied from culture to culture. The Saxons, for example, were among the first to practice formal body burials. Those more affluent or those who had earned prestige were buried deeper or covered with more soil (if in a mound) than those of less notability. In some customs, bodies were smoked. [The word funeral actually comes from the Sanskrit word, smoke). It was believed by some cultures that the smoke would carry the souls of the deceased to the heaven above. Therefore, the corpse was often placed on stilts in hopes that the fires below would provide smoke to assist the soul in the coming ascent.
Some societies practiced cremation, and there were antediluvian civilizations such as the Ancient Greeks who believed it necessary to provide the deceased with possessions of necessity for the beyond. The Greeks were so certain that the first journey of the afterlife was that of crossing a river, that they placed a coin in the mouth of the deceased so as to provide a necessary fee for the ferryman.
The Egyptians believed that effective preservation of the body was a foremost concern in assuring that the soul would continue to live, and many items, including food, furniture (and sometimes living beings) were included in such burials so that the soul would be provided for until that time of final departure.
Other customs such as burials at sea came about out of necessity, but it was the Romans who introduced their funeral customs to the English—customs which later became American-- such as the wearing of black, walking or riding in a procession, or placing a marker over the grave. Some headstones contained final words which were known as Epitaphs. The actual word, Epitaph is of Greek origin which represents two words: epi (upon) and taphos (tomb). The earliest of epitaphs were found on Egyptian tombs.
One of the most famous of all (American) epitaphs is that of Benjamin Franklin:
The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out, And stript of its lettering and gilding,
Lies here food for the worms. Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it shall, as he believes, appear once more, in a new and more
Beautiful edition Corrected and amended by the author.
AND OF COURSE, WHO HAS NOT KNOWN THE EPITAPH OF Robert Louis Stevenson:
Under the wide and starry sky, Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you gave to me:
Here he lies where he longed to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
There are even (actual) epitaphs which contain humor, such as:
I told them I was sick. (John Barrymore)
And those on western stones such as in Tombstone, Arizona which reads;
Here lies Les Moore…four slugs from a .44 no less, no more.
Arlington also has a Pet Cemetery with an animal burial ground and a customized animal cremation facility. If you are interested in this service, please click on the following link: www.arlingtonpetcemetery.com