Cemetaries

Our Forgotten Women Warrior Memorial

During a whirl whin trip to Arlington National Cemetery last week (more about this in a following post) I was enraged to find out that one of our National Memorials is going broke. That the doors of the “Women in Military Service For America“at the gate way to Arlington National Cemetery are planing to be closed to our citizens in spring of 2017.

My reaction to the news was more than disappointed, it was deep hurt, disgrace and anger. What do you mean that the Memorial doors will close…… Who would allow the history and sacrifice of our female solders and sailors to fall into ruin. The answer is a long one and as I did more research after my visit I found this info listed in Wikipedia and  took this  quote from the page about the monument.

 

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Wilma Vaught later admitted that the memorial foundation had been naive about how difficult it would be to raise the funds needed to construct the Women in Military Service for America Memorial and endow its operation and maintenance fund.[127]

To raise additional funds, the foundation signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the U.S. Mint in November 1995.[152] About 38,000 of the coins remained unsold.[152][153] Using a line of credit from a major bank, WMSAMF purchased the outstanding 38,000 coins and began selling them for $35 for proof coins and $32 for uncirculated coins — the same price for which the Mint sold them. This would generate $380,000 in revenues. However, WMSAMF added a $6 processing fee, intended to raise another $250,000 for the memorial.[153] By October 15, 1997, total coin sales had generated $3 million for the memorial.[151]

By September 1997, however, the foundation still needed $12 million to complete the memorial and endow its operating and maintenance fund.[125] That included a $2.5 million shortfall in construction funds. Foundation officials blamed a lack of interest from the defense industry, lack of access to military records (which would have enabled it to reach out to the estimated 1.2 million living women veterans), procrastination by donors, a lack of nationwide press attention, and indifference to the contributions of women for the lack of donations. Corporate support was especially lacking: Aside from the $1 million donation from AT&T and the $300,000 donation by General Motors, the next largest corporate donation was $50,000 (and only two companies gave at that level).[127][154] The inability to reach out to female veterans was a major issue. The foundation had hoped that 500,000 veterans would contribute $25 each to the memorial’s construction, but lack of outreach meant that only 200,000 had done so.[126] Vaught also blamed lack of interest from the 230,000 women currently serving in the active duty and reserve armed forces.[127] State donations were also low. Eight states (Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) did not donate to the memorial by dedication day. Contribution levels from the states were relatively low, ranging from $60,000 from New York to just $1,750 from Colorado.[134]

First Lady Michelle Obama tours the memorial with Brig. Gen. (ret.) Wilma Vaught in March 2009.

To pay the memorial’s outstanding debt, WMSAMF relied heavily on gift shop sales and other revenue. Arlington National Cemetery draws an estimated 4.5 million visitors each year.[126] Visitation numbers were not meeting expectations, however. Memorial officials said attendance would be about 250,000 to 300,000 visitors in the first year of operation, rather than the 500,000 projected. Only about 22,000 of the 375,000 people who visit Arlington National Cemetery each month visited the memorial. By July 1998, annual revenues from gift shop sales and other sources reached $5 million, about what was expected.[146] The memorial also began selling biographical data and a photograph of the individuals in the veterans’ database, which generated $14,500 in June 1998 from $2,500 in January. The memorial also began charging $4,000 for use of its space.[146]

The memorial was still unable to pay about $2 million in construction costs in January 1998.[146][147] WMSAMF had raised $19 million of the $21.5 million in total costs (construction and operation/maintenance endowment),[146] but by September 1997 could not pay Clark Construction the outstanding construction bill.[147] Clark Construction said it paid its subcontractors out-of-pocket, rather than wait for payment from the memorial foundation.[147] The firm also said it was not yet taking legal action, because it had faith in the memorial and expected to be paid.[155] Memorial president Wilma Vaught said the financial situation was not serious. Nonetheless, fund-raising experts told her said that few donors wished to give money to “women’s projects”[146] and that so many memorials were asking for funds that corporations simply stopped giving.[147] Vaught said three major donations had been received since the October 1997 dedication. These included a $500,000 donation from Eastman Kodak (payable over four years), a $250,000 donation from Merck Laboratories (payable over five years), and a $250,000 donation from a private foundation (payable immediately).[146]

Memorial finances continued to be unsteady as of 2010. The memorial had so little revenue to pay its $2.7 million annual budget that it nearly closed in 2009. Congress, however, provided a $1.6 million grant to keep it open, and a fund-raising drive brought in $250,000. [156] Although the memorial had about 241,000 women veterans listed in its database in 2010, about 75 percent of all World War II women servicemembers (who might have been counted on to donate) had already died, and many others were ill and on limited incomes. A sharp drop in gift shop sales after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 also significantly hurt the memorial’s finances.[157]

On October 17, 2012, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial celebrated its 15th anniversary.[1] Raising funds to cover the memorial’s $3 million for operating budget was still a struggle.[2]

In November 2016, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial said its financial situation was so poor, it may have to close.[158]

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Ceremonial Gates in front of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Memorial sits as the ceremonial gate way into Arlington Nation Cemetery. It is a grand building that is  not only beautiful, but peaceful and inviting. The fountain and reflecting pool were drained at this time of the year, but were still an important part of the design of the building. What a shame it is for us a people and our country to shut the doors to one of the most predominate memorials in Washington D.C.

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the crowd at the dedication of the WIMSFA Memorial in Washington D.C. 1997 looking away from the front of the building

Inside the Memorial the long curving hall is home to displays and video feeds of the stories of woman who continue to be over looked by our county. As I walked the hall with my friend Retired Air Force Lt.Col. Nurse Kathryn Robinson,I find that her story is as important to this place as all the others. That she like thousands of other woman served our country, raise families and deployed to every duty they  were called to do. It was hard to see the pages and photos of the many woman who had died in combat. It was hard to think about what many of them have endured over the years of service in the harshest of the worlds conditions.

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State and branch of service flags inside the Memorial.Some times displayed outside on around the base of the memorial.2016

It was hard to think of the many lives that our service nurses have fought to save over the history of the armed forces and it was harder to think about all of the lives that they have seen lost. But they continue to serve day in and day out. Our nurses, our enlisted, our officers and retired women deserve better,they deserve a places in the history of Washington D.C. They deserve the same as every male solder and sailor. They deserve a place where their stories are told and kept alive for the next generation of young women.  The same young women,who one day may want to join them, to serve and protect our great nation.

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“Operation Iraqi Freedom” nurses quilt on display inside the Women in Service to America Memorial 2016

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“Women Warriors” quilt  at Woman In Military Service For America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery 2106.

 

So with the future of this great memorial and the history of all of America women warriors in jeopardy, I ask that you think about how we want our women to be remembered. Think about any time that you have spent in Washington D.C. and how it will look if we allow this closing to happen. What a shame it will be on us as  a people if  did not think enough of our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters to take a stand and say that we want this place for future generations.

As I step down off my soap box and hope that in some way I have made you think. I hope that you will  take time to learn more about the memorial and what they have to offer and take time to donate to keep the memorial going. I did !

Please visit   Women in Military Service for America to learn more and help our women service members continue to have a place of their own.

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Honoring an Air Force Nurse at Arlington National Cemetery with Air Force Officers including Retired Officer Kathryn Robinson Dec. 2016

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Air Force, American Veterans, Arlington National Cemetery, Army, Cemetaries, friends, historic locations, Memorial, nursing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Lost Soul of Loveberry Ridge Church. ( St Bernard Catholic Church, Lewis Co. WV)

The wood sided church sits on a hill on a one lane road, miles from the nearest town. The tree-lined road is quite and family homes speckled the trip up to the 1910 church. The well cared for church and cemetery were once the center of catholic life in the Lewis County, West Virginia. With many of the parishioners being immigrants from Ireland who brought with them their Catholic faith and traditions. These include the sad tradition of not allowing the bodies of the damned  buried inside church cemeteries. The story of John Kennedy and his unusual burial is the reason so many have thought over the years that this church and cemetery are haunted.

Back Side of St. Bernard Church Lewis County West Virginia

Back Side of St. Bernard Church Lewis County West Virginia

Construction on the single room church finished and services began in 1910. Yet, many of the graves in the cemetery are from the late 1800’s, the graves are remnants of earlier church yards.This structure is actually the third version of the church.The first being recorded back to a log Catholic Church that was active in the 1850’s. All of the  churches have  looked down over Loveberry Ridge as a beacon on the hill to those looking for a place to worship.

Many churches and cemeteries in the mountain state are on the tops of hills or mountains no matter what the denomination.West Virginia people held the belief that you were “closer to God” when you worshiped/ spent eternity/ on a mountain top. The other more practical reason to have a cemetery on a hill-top is flooding. West Virginia is prone to flash flooding and has a wet climate making bottom land swampy and full of bogs if not well-drained. So in the 1800’s a wise choice was to place the wooden coffins in higher locations where they would not float to the top of the ground during a flood or bob up to the surface if a fresh water spring started under the cemetery.

St Bernard and Rectory 1938

St Bernard and Rectory 1938 sourced from www.orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com.

If you look closely at the above photo and the photos below you will see a tombstone that is not in line with the others in the church cemetery. Up against the fence, alone, is the stone marking the grave site of John Kennedy. The stone is so close to the fence that an adult can not pass between it and the fence. On the ground in front of the headstone is his foot stone with just the J.K. marking. This is a strange placement for a foot stone during Victorian times, it would have been places several feet below the head of the dead. It is this grave that started the stories of the haunting at the Church.

Cemetery and Church of St Bernard, showing headstone of John Kennedy

Cemetery and Church of St Bernard, showing headstone of John Kennedy

Headstone of john Kennedy through iron fence

Headstone of john Kennedy through iron fence

HD photo of inscription of Tombstone of John Kennedy St Bernard church, Weston, West Virginia

HD photo of inscription of Tombstone of John Kennedy St Bernard church, Weston, West Virginia

Footstone of John Kennedy at St. Bernard Church Weston, WV

Foot stone of John Kennedy at St. Bernard Church Weston, WV

As was the custom of the 1800’s Catholic Church, any person who committed a mortal sin was unable to have a Funeral Mass or burial in the church cemetery. John Kennedy committed suicide at the young age of 19 making it impossible for his remains to stay in St Bernard’s cemetery. Johns other family members are buried in the cemetery and were people of wealth and power making it possible for John to have the large marker with in the fence of St Bernard’s but not his body. The remains are in the small bank along the road outside the fence. Leaving John to forever struggling with the fact that his bones are outside the sacred ground of the church and without the holy blessing of the priest. Some say that John roams the road and parking lot. That he is always looking for a way back into the good graces of the church and family.

First hand sightings have said that the front and back gates of the church will open and close on their own even though both gates into the property have latches. That a black shadow figure moves around the parking area and up and down the road to the church. That at certain times of the year that the church windows glow at night as if by candle light. As if some one is trying to look out of the church into the cemetery.

Top gate at back of church at St Bernard, Weston, WV

Top gate at back of church at St Bernard, Weston, WV

Back view of front gate at St. Bernard church, Weston, wv

Back view of front gate at St. Bernard church, Weston, WV

It is interesting to note that the remains of the Rectory are still visible across the road where Father Thomas A Quirk over saw the building of this church and lived most of his life. The rectories well, cellar and stone path are still visible to anyone who would want to walk up the steep bank to see them. The property is also protected with a huge wooden cross that stands on the front of the bank where the main house and offices would have stood. This maybe why the ghost is only seen in the roads…

Cellar of rectory of St Bernard church, Weston, WV

Cellar of rectory of St Bernard church, Weston, WV

Well cover at the site of rectory of St Bernard church

Well cover at the site of rectory of St Bernard church

Wooden Cross at the location of the rectory of St Bernard church

Wooden Cross at the location of the rectory of St Bernard Church

It is also possible that the strange happenings at (inside and out) the church could be caused by the ongoing conflict between the longtime resident Father Thomas Quirk and the young man John Kennedy. Father Quirk passed in 1937 after serving his parish for over 39 nine years at the age of 92. His resting place in the cemetery  has a large white sculpture of Calvary with a monolithic gray granite stone slab where his remains rest only feet from the stone marker for John Kennedy.

Monument to Father Thomas A Quirk at St Bernard church

Monument to Father Thomas A Quirk at St Bernard Church

Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Quirk, dead, 15 September 1937, St. Bernard's Catholic Church. Photo: Arch Ellis

Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Quirk, dead, 15 September
1937, St. Bernard’s Catholic Church.
Photo: Arch Ellis. sourced from http://www.orlandostonesoup.blogspot.com

Locals believe that Monsignor Quirk is the spirit still protecting the church and its Revival Gothic interior. The Monsignor’s ghost will not allow anyone who enters the church to remove anything that belongs to his church. The story goes that nothing from hymnals to bibles can be removed from the church by anyone who is not approved by the watchful ghost. Many stories state that if a person attempts to remove the altar bible from the church the book gains weight as the uninvited guest  progresses down the isle of the church. Finally the book becomes to heavy to carry and drops to the floor where it is impossible to moved.In the last few years the care takers of the church have also added the watchful eyes of security cameras to prevent unwanted intruders from entering the church. The Church is officially closed now days, no services are regularly held, but the church remains part of Catholic life in Lewis County. Some summers the church is open when they choose to have home-coming events and weddings at the remote location.

I did not need to see the inside of the church this day. All I needed was to see the headstone of John Kennedy and say a little prayer for him. I hope that his eternal struggle is over and that one day he would find some kind of peace in the cemetery way up at Loveberry Ridge.

Photo enhancement of front gate at St Bernard Church

Photo enhancement of front gate at St Bernard Church by Jolynn Powers

 

 

Categories: Cemetaries, Church, ghost stories, Halloween, historic locations, nostalgic, rural life, traveling, West Virginia, Weston | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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