Memorial Day always brings to mind Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. I love the story of the patriotic Decoration Day celebration (as it was known then) and the tradition of decorating the graves of soldiers and family. Over the years this tradition seems to have been lost to some. Even in 1912, the year this book was set, some of Emily’s friends do not understand the true meaning of the holiday. Don calls it “bunk” and asks Emily, “how many people are thinking about anything except the impression they are making, or the picnic they are heading for, or how their feet hurt?” Emily realizes the day means more to her than most people and explains, “It’s —part of growing up in America.” Don tells her she’s just a sentimentalist.
As Emily works to tidy up the family gravesites, she remembers the lives of those she loved and how her life might be different had they lived longer. Emily’s family mirrors that of her counterpart, Marguerite Marsh, who lost her mother at a young age and then her grandmother. She was left with only her grandfather, who she cared for until his death.
Marguerite had a deep sense of service to others and devotion for her country. She enlisted in the YMCA in November 1917 and served 16 months in France with the 82nd Division. She was assigned to a YMCA café at Tours, France and later was in charge of a canteen at Gondrecourt, with the First Army school.
When I visited Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato this Memorial Day weekend, I stopped by Marguerite’s grave, left a flower and placed an American flag. The family plot is located in the older part of the cemetery and is heavily shaded by a large tree where the grass no longer grows. Remember Marguerite…